A taste of tradition | TheFencePost.com

A taste of tradition

Teams present their bread dishes to be judged, including the winning rosemary and kalamata olive focacia bread by Deb Braly (left) of Elbert, Colo.

Deer Trail, Colo., known as the “home of the world’s first rodeo,” is big on tradition. With its western and rural roots, a dutch oven cook-off competition was a natural fit during the town’s rodeo celebration on Sunday, Aug. 22. Tagged to help judge a nine-team cook off with three other fortunate individuals, this author represented the Fence Post magazine and sampled 36 total servings of bread, side dishes, meats and desserts.

Uh … can we do this again real soon?

In what may be described as a cornucopia of culinary delights, the most difficult part was attempting to score each sample separate from the rest.

How was anyone going to come out on top if every card read, “Wow! Perfect score of 100. May I please have more?”

The first wave of taste sensations was the bread division. Including cinnamon rolls, buttered rolls, jalapeno biscuits and an amazing focacia bread, the teams brought their hot dutch ovens forward to be judged on presentation, originality, appearance, aroma, taste, etc. It seemed a wise plan to savor only a small portion of each in order to make it through the competition without caloric overload, but the experience of throwing away uneaten samples on the plate was enough to make this grown man cry.

It is safe to say the other judges held the same opinion.

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“It’s hard to (judge) because everything tastes really good,” praised Frank Fields of Deer Trail, who is also the town’s mayor. It was his first time judging a cook-off competition and he just laughed when asked what went through his mind to see wave after wave of excellent vittles coming his way.

“I don’t know what (went) through my mind,” he answered with a grin. “Just try the next one, that’s all you can do. “

Asked if he would want to judge something like this again in the future, his response was immediate.

“Oh yeah, I’d do it again,” he said with more laughter. “You don’t eat like this very often. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Next on the agenda were side dishes including cowboy beans, fried potatoes, corn recipes and a squash dish that tasted like grandma’s Thanksgiving stuffing.

The judges were impressed.

“The stuff they can do with the dutch ovens, it’s interesting,” said judge and Deer Trail resident Mark Dille, taking time between sections to answer a few questions. Dille was new to judging, but not to eating dutch oven cooking. “I’ve got a sister who does a lot of dutch oven cooking and I’ve eaten some of hers, but this is a whole lot of variety here,” he added with a slight smile.

Asked his opinion on sampling loads of good cooking, Dille marveled at the skill behind all the recipes. “It was amazing nothing was burned,” he stated before revealing his own cooking deficiencies. “If I was doing this, it would all be black, it would be (like) Cajun cooking.”

The main dish was next and every team was solid. With beef the name of the game for this division, there was prime rib with horseradish sauce, seasoned briskets, sweet and sour meatballs, a few stews, a pot roast and a dutch oven filled with tenderloin pepper steaks in a brandy cream sauce.

This judge’s taste buds found paradise, making it difficult to finally choose the winning tenderloin pepper steak.

“I think (I got) lucky, really, with the serious competition here,” said Elizabeth, Colo., cook Bill Vance about taking top honors in the main dish portion. “I was so impressed with what everybody did, it was just unbelievable.”

Unbelievable was the final item to be judged … the desserts. Topping off an already impressive display of food preparation, the contestants outdid themselves with superb recipes like a fuzzy navel cake, pineapple upside down cakes, an apple pie concoction and a perfect cherry cheesecake. The cheesecake seemed straight from a five-star menu and it launched its cook, Bev Lowell of Deer Trail, to first place in the section along with top overall honors for the entire contest. The accolades were a shock for the dutch oven newcomer in just her second competition.

“Oh wow,” she began when asked her feelings on being anointed the overall winner. “It was like winning a million dollars! It was very shocking.”

Although Lowell reveled in the moment, her biggest pleasure of the day was just being a part of the total event.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said with a smile. “(The best part) is being around the people here. They’re just laughing and having a great time and just enjoying what they do best.”

Other top finishers felt the same way.

“I don’t really care if I place or not, I just like cooking,” said Dave Link of Elbert, Colo., who won third place overall along with his wife Sue and cooking partners John and Deb Braly, also of Elbert. “Winning is just a bonus. We enjoy cooking and we enjoy hanging out with the people.”

“Oh, it’s a lot of fun,” agreed Deb Braly, one of Link’s teammates. “It’s a long hot day, but it’s a lot of fun. Not only that, but then you get razzed the whole time, too, so that’s perfect,” she summed up with a laugh about the camaraderie and friendly banter occurring all day long between teams.

“I think its just super,” said longtime Deer Trail resident John Jolly, one of the original people behind the idea of organizing a series of dutch oven cook-offs in the state, a concept he hopes will expand. “I think it’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to this place. (The contestants) are the nicest people, the camaraderie is just unbelievable and the quality of the food is unbelievable. I really, really look forward to this.”

While every taste bud wants a crack at judging again, pronto, a fourth judge best summed up the challenge of scoring such a pleasurable event and provided a compelling reason for taking time off between contests.

“It was really hard, because they’re all good,” described Jeannie Branch who traveled from Douglas County to participate. “The dishes were so varied and there were quite a few good tastes. It was a lot of food,” she summed up with a laugh. “I have to go on a diet now.”

Deer Trail, Colo., known as the “home of the world’s first rodeo,” is big on tradition. With its western and rural roots, a dutch oven cook-off competition was a natural fit during the town’s rodeo celebration on Sunday, Aug. 22. Tagged to help judge a nine-team cook off with three other fortunate individuals, this author represented the Fence Post magazine and sampled 36 total servings of bread, side dishes, meats and desserts.

Uh … can we do this again real soon?

In what may be described as a cornucopia of culinary delights, the most difficult part was attempting to score each sample separate from the rest.

How was anyone going to come out on top if every card read, “Wow! Perfect score of 100. May I please have more?”

The first wave of taste sensations was the bread division. Including cinnamon rolls, buttered rolls, jalapeno biscuits and an amazing focacia bread, the teams brought their hot dutch ovens forward to be judged on presentation, originality, appearance, aroma, taste, etc. It seemed a wise plan to savor only a small portion of each in order to make it through the competition without caloric overload, but the experience of throwing away uneaten samples on the plate was enough to make this grown man cry.

It is safe to say the other judges held the same opinion.

“It’s hard to (judge) because everything tastes really good,” praised Frank Fields of Deer Trail, who is also the town’s mayor. It was his first time judging a cook-off competition and he just laughed when asked what went through his mind to see wave after wave of excellent vittles coming his way.

“I don’t know what (went) through my mind,” he answered with a grin. “Just try the next one, that’s all you can do. “

Asked if he would want to judge something like this again in the future, his response was immediate.

“Oh yeah, I’d do it again,” he said with more laughter. “You don’t eat like this very often. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Next on the agenda were side dishes including cowboy beans, fried potatoes, corn recipes and a squash dish that tasted like grandma’s Thanksgiving stuffing.

The judges were impressed.

“The stuff they can do with the dutch ovens, it’s interesting,” said judge and Deer Trail resident Mark Dille, taking time between sections to answer a few questions. Dille was new to judging, but not to eating dutch oven cooking. “I’ve got a sister who does a lot of dutch oven cooking and I’ve eaten some of hers, but this is a whole lot of variety here,” he added with a slight smile.

Asked his opinion on sampling loads of good cooking, Dille marveled at the skill behind all the recipes. “It was amazing nothing was burned,” he stated before revealing his own cooking deficiencies. “If I was doing this, it would all be black, it would be (like) Cajun cooking.”

The main dish was next and every team was solid. With beef the name of the game for this division, there was prime rib with horseradish sauce, seasoned briskets, sweet and sour meatballs, a few stews, a pot roast and a dutch oven filled with tenderloin pepper steaks in a brandy cream sauce.

This judge’s taste buds found paradise, making it difficult to finally choose the winning tenderloin pepper steak.

“I think (I got) lucky, really, with the serious competition here,” said Elizabeth, Colo., cook Bill Vance about taking top honors in the main dish portion. “I was so impressed with what everybody did, it was just unbelievable.”

Unbelievable was the final item to be judged … the desserts. Topping off an already impressive display of food preparation, the contestants outdid themselves with superb recipes like a fuzzy navel cake, pineapple upside down cakes, an apple pie concoction and a perfect cherry cheesecake. The cheesecake seemed straight from a five-star menu and it launched its cook, Bev Lowell of Deer Trail, to first place in the section along with top overall honors for the entire contest. The accolades were a shock for the dutch oven newcomer in just her second competition.

“Oh wow,” she began when asked her feelings on being anointed the overall winner. “It was like winning a million dollars! It was very shocking.”

Although Lowell reveled in the moment, her biggest pleasure of the day was just being a part of the total event.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said with a smile. “(The best part) is being around the people here. They’re just laughing and having a great time and just enjoying what they do best.”

Other top finishers felt the same way.

“I don’t really care if I place or not, I just like cooking,” said Dave Link of Elbert, Colo., who won third place overall along with his wife Sue and cooking partners John and Deb Braly, also of Elbert. “Winning is just a bonus. We enjoy cooking and we enjoy hanging out with the people.”

“Oh, it’s a lot of fun,” agreed Deb Braly, one of Link’s teammates. “It’s a long hot day, but it’s a lot of fun. Not only that, but then you get razzed the whole time, too, so that’s perfect,” she summed up with a laugh about the camaraderie and friendly banter occurring all day long between teams.

“I think its just super,” said longtime Deer Trail resident John Jolly, one of the original people behind the idea of organizing a series of dutch oven cook-offs in the state, a concept he hopes will expand. “I think it’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to this place. (The contestants) are the nicest people, the camaraderie is just unbelievable and the quality of the food is unbelievable. I really, really look forward to this.”

While every taste bud wants a crack at judging again, pronto, a fourth judge best summed up the challenge of scoring such a pleasurable event and provided a compelling reason for taking time off between contests.

“It was really hard, because they’re all good,” described Jeannie Branch who traveled from Douglas County to participate. “The dishes were so varied and there were quite a few good tastes. It was a lot of food,” she summed up with a laugh. “I have to go on a diet now.”

Deer Trail, Colo., known as the “home of the world’s first rodeo,” is big on tradition. With its western and rural roots, a dutch oven cook-off competition was a natural fit during the town’s rodeo celebration on Sunday, Aug. 22. Tagged to help judge a nine-team cook off with three other fortunate individuals, this author represented the Fence Post magazine and sampled 36 total servings of bread, side dishes, meats and desserts.

Uh … can we do this again real soon?

In what may be described as a cornucopia of culinary delights, the most difficult part was attempting to score each sample separate from the rest.

How was anyone going to come out on top if every card read, “Wow! Perfect score of 100. May I please have more?”

The first wave of taste sensations was the bread division. Including cinnamon rolls, buttered rolls, jalapeno biscuits and an amazing focacia bread, the teams brought their hot dutch ovens forward to be judged on presentation, originality, appearance, aroma, taste, etc. It seemed a wise plan to savor only a small portion of each in order to make it through the competition without caloric overload, but the experience of throwing away uneaten samples on the plate was enough to make this grown man cry.

It is safe to say the other judges held the same opinion.

“It’s hard to (judge) because everything tastes really good,” praised Frank Fields of Deer Trail, who is also the town’s mayor. It was his first time judging a cook-off competition and he just laughed when asked what went through his mind to see wave after wave of excellent vittles coming his way.

“I don’t know what (went) through my mind,” he answered with a grin. “Just try the next one, that’s all you can do. “

Asked if he would want to judge something like this again in the future, his response was immediate.

“Oh yeah, I’d do it again,” he said with more laughter. “You don’t eat like this very often. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Next on the agenda were side dishes including cowboy beans, fried potatoes, corn recipes and a squash dish that tasted like grandma’s Thanksgiving stuffing.

The judges were impressed.

“The stuff they can do with the dutch ovens, it’s interesting,” said judge and Deer Trail resident Mark Dille, taking time between sections to answer a few questions. Dille was new to judging, but not to eating dutch oven cooking. “I’ve got a sister who does a lot of dutch oven cooking and I’ve eaten some of hers, but this is a whole lot of variety here,” he added with a slight smile.

Asked his opinion on sampling loads of good cooking, Dille marveled at the skill behind all the recipes. “It was amazing nothing was burned,” he stated before revealing his own cooking deficiencies. “If I was doing this, it would all be black, it would be (like) Cajun cooking.”

The main dish was next and every team was solid. With beef the name of the game for this division, there was prime rib with horseradish sauce, seasoned briskets, sweet and sour meatballs, a few stews, a pot roast and a dutch oven filled with tenderloin pepper steaks in a brandy cream sauce.

This judge’s taste buds found paradise, making it difficult to finally choose the winning tenderloin pepper steak.

“I think (I got) lucky, really, with the serious competition here,” said Elizabeth, Colo., cook Bill Vance about taking top honors in the main dish portion. “I was so impressed with what everybody did, it was just unbelievable.”

Unbelievable was the final item to be judged … the desserts. Topping off an already impressive display of food preparation, the contestants outdid themselves with superb recipes like a fuzzy navel cake, pineapple upside down cakes, an apple pie concoction and a perfect cherry cheesecake. The cheesecake seemed straight from a five-star menu and it launched its cook, Bev Lowell of Deer Trail, to first place in the section along with top overall honors for the entire contest. The accolades were a shock for the dutch oven newcomer in just her second competition.

“Oh wow,” she began when asked her feelings on being anointed the overall winner. “It was like winning a million dollars! It was very shocking.”

Although Lowell reveled in the moment, her biggest pleasure of the day was just being a part of the total event.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said with a smile. “(The best part) is being around the people here. They’re just laughing and having a great time and just enjoying what they do best.”

Other top finishers felt the same way.

“I don’t really care if I place or not, I just like cooking,” said Dave Link of Elbert, Colo., who won third place overall along with his wife Sue and cooking partners John and Deb Braly, also of Elbert. “Winning is just a bonus. We enjoy cooking and we enjoy hanging out with the people.”

“Oh, it’s a lot of fun,” agreed Deb Braly, one of Link’s teammates. “It’s a long hot day, but it’s a lot of fun. Not only that, but then you get razzed the whole time, too, so that’s perfect,” she summed up with a laugh about the camaraderie and friendly banter occurring all day long between teams.

“I think its just super,” said longtime Deer Trail resident John Jolly, one of the original people behind the idea of organizing a series of dutch oven cook-offs in the state, a concept he hopes will expand. “I think it’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to this place. (The contestants) are the nicest people, the camaraderie is just unbelievable and the quality of the food is unbelievable. I really, really look forward to this.”

While every taste bud wants a crack at judging again, pronto, a fourth judge best summed up the challenge of scoring such a pleasurable event and provided a compelling reason for taking time off between contests.

“It was really hard, because they’re all good,” described Jeannie Branch who traveled from Douglas County to participate. “The dishes were so varied and there were quite a few good tastes. It was a lot of food,” she summed up with a laugh. “I have to go on a diet now.”

Deer Trail, Colo., known as the “home of the world’s first rodeo,” is big on tradition. With its western and rural roots, a dutch oven cook-off competition was a natural fit during the town’s rodeo celebration on Sunday, Aug. 22. Tagged to help judge a nine-team cook off with three other fortunate individuals, this author represented the Fence Post magazine and sampled 36 total servings of bread, side dishes, meats and desserts.

Uh … can we do this again real soon?

In what may be described as a cornucopia of culinary delights, the most difficult part was attempting to score each sample separate from the rest.

How was anyone going to come out on top if every card read, “Wow! Perfect score of 100. May I please have more?”

The first wave of taste sensations was the bread division. Including cinnamon rolls, buttered rolls, jalapeno biscuits and an amazing focacia bread, the teams brought their hot dutch ovens forward to be judged on presentation, originality, appearance, aroma, taste, etc. It seemed a wise plan to savor only a small portion of each in order to make it through the competition without caloric overload, but the experience of throwing away uneaten samples on the plate was enough to make this grown man cry.

It is safe to say the other judges held the same opinion.

“It’s hard to (judge) because everything tastes really good,” praised Frank Fields of Deer Trail, who is also the town’s mayor. It was his first time judging a cook-off competition and he just laughed when asked what went through his mind to see wave after wave of excellent vittles coming his way.

“I don’t know what (went) through my mind,” he answered with a grin. “Just try the next one, that’s all you can do. “

Asked if he would want to judge something like this again in the future, his response was immediate.

“Oh yeah, I’d do it again,” he said with more laughter. “You don’t eat like this very often. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Next on the agenda were side dishes including cowboy beans, fried potatoes, corn recipes and a squash dish that tasted like grandma’s Thanksgiving stuffing.

The judges were impressed.

“The stuff they can do with the dutch ovens, it’s interesting,” said judge and Deer Trail resident Mark Dille, taking time between sections to answer a few questions. Dille was new to judging, but not to eating dutch oven cooking. “I’ve got a sister who does a lot of dutch oven cooking and I’ve eaten some of hers, but this is a whole lot of variety here,” he added with a slight smile.

Asked his opinion on sampling loads of good cooking, Dille marveled at the skill behind all the recipes. “It was amazing nothing was burned,” he stated before revealing his own cooking deficiencies. “If I was doing this, it would all be black, it would be (like) Cajun cooking.”

The main dish was next and every team was solid. With beef the name of the game for this division, there was prime rib with horseradish sauce, seasoned briskets, sweet and sour meatballs, a few stews, a pot roast and a dutch oven filled with tenderloin pepper steaks in a brandy cream sauce.

This judge’s taste buds found paradise, making it difficult to finally choose the winning tenderloin pepper steak.

“I think (I got) lucky, really, with the serious competition here,” said Elizabeth, Colo., cook Bill Vance about taking top honors in the main dish portion. “I was so impressed with what everybody did, it was just unbelievable.”

Unbelievable was the final item to be judged … the desserts. Topping off an already impressive display of food preparation, the contestants outdid themselves with superb recipes like a fuzzy navel cake, pineapple upside down cakes, an apple pie concoction and a perfect cherry cheesecake. The cheesecake seemed straight from a five-star menu and it launched its cook, Bev Lowell of Deer Trail, to first place in the section along with top overall honors for the entire contest. The accolades were a shock for the dutch oven newcomer in just her second competition.

“Oh wow,” she began when asked her feelings on being anointed the overall winner. “It was like winning a million dollars! It was very shocking.”

Although Lowell reveled in the moment, her biggest pleasure of the day was just being a part of the total event.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said with a smile. “(The best part) is being around the people here. They’re just laughing and having a great time and just enjoying what they do best.”

Other top finishers felt the same way.

“I don’t really care if I place or not, I just like cooking,” said Dave Link of Elbert, Colo., who won third place overall along with his wife Sue and cooking partners John and Deb Braly, also of Elbert. “Winning is just a bonus. We enjoy cooking and we enjoy hanging out with the people.”

“Oh, it’s a lot of fun,” agreed Deb Braly, one of Link’s teammates. “It’s a long hot day, but it’s a lot of fun. Not only that, but then you get razzed the whole time, too, so that’s perfect,” she summed up with a laugh about the camaraderie and friendly banter occurring all day long between teams.

“I think its just super,” said longtime Deer Trail resident John Jolly, one of the original people behind the idea of organizing a series of dutch oven cook-offs in the state, a concept he hopes will expand. “I think it’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to this place. (The contestants) are the nicest people, the camaraderie is just unbelievable and the quality of the food is unbelievable. I really, really look forward to this.”

While every taste bud wants a crack at judging again, pronto, a fourth judge best summed up the challenge of scoring such a pleasurable event and provided a compelling reason for taking time off between contests.

“It was really hard, because they’re all good,” described Jeannie Branch who traveled from Douglas County to participate. “The dishes were so varied and there were quite a few good tastes. It was a lot of food,” she summed up with a laugh. “I have to go on a diet now.”

Deer Trail, Colo., known as the “home of the world’s first rodeo,” is big on tradition. With its western and rural roots, a dutch oven cook-off competition was a natural fit during the town’s rodeo celebration on Sunday, Aug. 22. Tagged to help judge a nine-team cook off with three other fortunate individuals, this author represented the Fence Post magazine and sampled 36 total servings of bread, side dishes, meats and desserts.

Uh … can we do this again real soon?

In what may be described as a cornucopia of culinary delights, the most difficult part was attempting to score each sample separate from the rest.

How was anyone going to come out on top if every card read, “Wow! Perfect score of 100. May I please have more?”

The first wave of taste sensations was the bread division. Including cinnamon rolls, buttered rolls, jalapeno biscuits and an amazing focacia bread, the teams brought their hot dutch ovens forward to be judged on presentation, originality, appearance, aroma, taste, etc. It seemed a wise plan to savor only a small portion of each in order to make it through the competition without caloric overload, but the experience of throwing away uneaten samples on the plate was enough to make this grown man cry.

It is safe to say the other judges held the same opinion.

“It’s hard to (judge) because everything tastes really good,” praised Frank Fields of Deer Trail, who is also the town’s mayor. It was his first time judging a cook-off competition and he just laughed when asked what went through his mind to see wave after wave of excellent vittles coming his way.

“I don’t know what (went) through my mind,” he answered with a grin. “Just try the next one, that’s all you can do. “

Asked if he would want to judge something like this again in the future, his response was immediate.

“Oh yeah, I’d do it again,” he said with more laughter. “You don’t eat like this very often. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Next on the agenda were side dishes including cowboy beans, fried potatoes, corn recipes and a squash dish that tasted like grandma’s Thanksgiving stuffing.

The judges were impressed.

“The stuff they can do with the dutch ovens, it’s interesting,” said judge and Deer Trail resident Mark Dille, taking time between sections to answer a few questions. Dille was new to judging, but not to eating dutch oven cooking. “I’ve got a sister who does a lot of dutch oven cooking and I’ve eaten some of hers, but this is a whole lot of variety here,” he added with a slight smile.

Asked his opinion on sampling loads of good cooking, Dille marveled at the skill behind all the recipes. “It was amazing nothing was burned,” he stated before revealing his own cooking deficiencies. “If I was doing this, it would all be black, it would be (like) Cajun cooking.”

The main dish was next and every team was solid. With beef the name of the game for this division, there was prime rib with horseradish sauce, seasoned briskets, sweet and sour meatballs, a few stews, a pot roast and a dutch oven filled with tenderloin pepper steaks in a brandy cream sauce.

This judge’s taste buds found paradise, making it difficult to finally choose the winning tenderloin pepper steak.

“I think (I got) lucky, really, with the serious competition here,” said Elizabeth, Colo., cook Bill Vance about taking top honors in the main dish portion. “I was so impressed with what everybody did, it was just unbelievable.”

Unbelievable was the final item to be judged … the desserts. Topping off an already impressive display of food preparation, the contestants outdid themselves with superb recipes like a fuzzy navel cake, pineapple upside down cakes, an apple pie concoction and a perfect cherry cheesecake. The cheesecake seemed straight from a five-star menu and it launched its cook, Bev Lowell of Deer Trail, to first place in the section along with top overall honors for the entire contest. The accolades were a shock for the dutch oven newcomer in just her second competition.

“Oh wow,” she began when asked her feelings on being anointed the overall winner. “It was like winning a million dollars! It was very shocking.”

Although Lowell reveled in the moment, her biggest pleasure of the day was just being a part of the total event.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said with a smile. “(The best part) is being around the people here. They’re just laughing and having a great time and just enjoying what they do best.”

Other top finishers felt the same way.

“I don’t really care if I place or not, I just like cooking,” said Dave Link of Elbert, Colo., who won third place overall along with his wife Sue and cooking partners John and Deb Braly, also of Elbert. “Winning is just a bonus. We enjoy cooking and we enjoy hanging out with the people.”

“Oh, it’s a lot of fun,” agreed Deb Braly, one of Link’s teammates. “It’s a long hot day, but it’s a lot of fun. Not only that, but then you get razzed the whole time, too, so that’s perfect,” she summed up with a laugh about the camaraderie and friendly banter occurring all day long between teams.

“I think its just super,” said longtime Deer Trail resident John Jolly, one of the original people behind the idea of organizing a series of dutch oven cook-offs in the state, a concept he hopes will expand. “I think it’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to this place. (The contestants) are the nicest people, the camaraderie is just unbelievable and the quality of the food is unbelievable. I really, really look forward to this.”

While every taste bud wants a crack at judging again, pronto, a fourth judge best summed up the challenge of scoring such a pleasurable event and provided a compelling reason for taking time off between contests.

“It was really hard, because they’re all good,” described Jeannie Branch who traveled from Douglas County to participate. “The dishes were so varied and there were quite a few good tastes. It was a lot of food,” she summed up with a laugh. “I have to go on a diet now.”

Deer Trail, Colo., known as the “home of the world’s first rodeo,” is big on tradition. With its western and rural roots, a dutch oven cook-off competition was a natural fit during the town’s rodeo celebration on Sunday, Aug. 22. Tagged to help judge a nine-team cook off with three other fortunate individuals, this author represented the Fence Post magazine and sampled 36 total servings of bread, side dishes, meats and desserts.

Uh … can we do this again real soon?

In what may be described as a cornucopia of culinary delights, the most difficult part was attempting to score each sample separate from the rest.

How was anyone going to come out on top if every card read, “Wow! Perfect score of 100. May I please have more?”

The first wave of taste sensations was the bread division. Including cinnamon rolls, buttered rolls, jalapeno biscuits and an amazing focacia bread, the teams brought their hot dutch ovens forward to be judged on presentation, originality, appearance, aroma, taste, etc. It seemed a wise plan to savor only a small portion of each in order to make it through the competition without caloric overload, but the experience of throwing away uneaten samples on the plate was enough to make this grown man cry.

It is safe to say the other judges held the same opinion.

“It’s hard to (judge) because everything tastes really good,” praised Frank Fields of Deer Trail, who is also the town’s mayor. It was his first time judging a cook-off competition and he just laughed when asked what went through his mind to see wave after wave of excellent vittles coming his way.

“I don’t know what (went) through my mind,” he answered with a grin. “Just try the next one, that’s all you can do. “

Asked if he would want to judge something like this again in the future, his response was immediate.

“Oh yeah, I’d do it again,” he said with more laughter. “You don’t eat like this very often. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Next on the agenda were side dishes including cowboy beans, fried potatoes, corn recipes and a squash dish that tasted like grandma’s Thanksgiving stuffing.

The judges were impressed.

“The stuff they can do with the dutch ovens, it’s interesting,” said judge and Deer Trail resident Mark Dille, taking time between sections to answer a few questions. Dille was new to judging, but not to eating dutch oven cooking. “I’ve got a sister who does a lot of dutch oven cooking and I’ve eaten some of hers, but this is a whole lot of variety here,” he added with a slight smile.

Asked his opinion on sampling loads of good cooking, Dille marveled at the skill behind all the recipes. “It was amazing nothing was burned,” he stated before revealing his own cooking deficiencies. “If I was doing this, it would all be black, it would be (like) Cajun cooking.”

The main dish was next and every team was solid. With beef the name of the game for this division, there was prime rib with horseradish sauce, seasoned briskets, sweet and sour meatballs, a few stews, a pot roast and a dutch oven filled with tenderloin pepper steaks in a brandy cream sauce.

This judge’s taste buds found paradise, making it difficult to finally choose the winning tenderloin pepper steak.

“I think (I got) lucky, really, with the serious competition here,” said Elizabeth, Colo., cook Bill Vance about taking top honors in the main dish portion. “I was so impressed with what everybody did, it was just unbelievable.”

Unbelievable was the final item to be judged … the desserts. Topping off an already impressive display of food preparation, the contestants outdid themselves with superb recipes like a fuzzy navel cake, pineapple upside down cakes, an apple pie concoction and a perfect cherry cheesecake. The cheesecake seemed straight from a five-star menu and it launched its cook, Bev Lowell of Deer Trail, to first place in the section along with top overall honors for the entire contest. The accolades were a shock for the dutch oven newcomer in just her second competition.

“Oh wow,” she began when asked her feelings on being anointed the overall winner. “It was like winning a million dollars! It was very shocking.”

Although Lowell reveled in the moment, her biggest pleasure of the day was just being a part of the total event.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said with a smile. “(The best part) is being around the people here. They’re just laughing and having a great time and just enjoying what they do best.”

Other top finishers felt the same way.

“I don’t really care if I place or not, I just like cooking,” said Dave Link of Elbert, Colo., who won third place overall along with his wife Sue and cooking partners John and Deb Braly, also of Elbert. “Winning is just a bonus. We enjoy cooking and we enjoy hanging out with the people.”

“Oh, it’s a lot of fun,” agreed Deb Braly, one of Link’s teammates. “It’s a long hot day, but it’s a lot of fun. Not only that, but then you get razzed the whole time, too, so that’s perfect,” she summed up with a laugh about the camaraderie and friendly banter occurring all day long between teams.

“I think its just super,” said longtime Deer Trail resident John Jolly, one of the original people behind the idea of organizing a series of dutch oven cook-offs in the state, a concept he hopes will expand. “I think it’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to this place. (The contestants) are the nicest people, the camaraderie is just unbelievable and the quality of the food is unbelievable. I really, really look forward to this.”

While every taste bud wants a crack at judging again, pronto, a fourth judge best summed up the challenge of scoring such a pleasurable event and provided a compelling reason for taking time off between contests.

“It was really hard, because they’re all good,” described Jeannie Branch who traveled from Douglas County to participate. “The dishes were so varied and there were quite a few good tastes. It was a lot of food,” she summed up with a laugh. “I have to go on a diet now.”