I do! I win the endurance contest, anyway. Observer features editor Mike Weinstein and I took on the challenge this afternoon, joining several sets of judges in 90-plus heat. What a coincidence: We had to go from booth to booth and judge roughly 93 offerings.
The actual winners were announced last night. See results below.
In the meantime, a few observations about the Taste of Charlotte event if you're going:
1. It's gotten better. In the first few years, the lineup was more generic festival food. But in the last couple of years, it's really increased the number of local and non-chain restaurants. For those who remember the original Taste of Charlotte back when it was in 4th Ward Park, this is a good trend. This year's roundup included Harvest Moon Grille, Caffe Siena, Divine Pies (hi, Agnes!), Mert's, Dixie's Tavern, RiRa and Outlaw BBQ. Also, there was a good representation of international restaurants, including Woodlands, Namaste and Brazas.
2. Good turnout. I thought expected it to be deserted during the judging hours of 1 to 3 p.m. on a Friday. But even in the heat, it was pulling in a good crowd. And people seemed to be relaxed and having a good time.
3. Pulled pork. And more pulled pork. Even restaurants that aren't known for it were serving it. Understandable: It's a crowd-pleaser, and it's easy to do from a booth with steam tables. But by the 4th -- or was it the 5th? -- we were no longer squealing with delight.
4. Don't miss: Caffe Siena's Sea Bass Cake with Chipotle Slaw, Outlaw's brisket slider, Brazas' bacon-wrapped chicken, Polka Dot Bakery's Tuxedo cupcake, Flying Biscuit's BLT wrap, Mai Thai's Ginger Chicken Wing and Ri Ra's Guiness wings.
The official winners:
Best overall: Harvest Moon Grille, for Moonitas.
Best entree: Caffe Siena, Sea Bass Cake
Appetitzer, Modern Mexican, jalapeno shrimp
Dessert: Polka Dot Bakery, Tuxedo Cupcake
Most unique: Mert's Heart and Soul, Soul Roll
Display: Newk's Express.