Smothering the competition

Burritos, music, cars and more at event

WATSONVILLE — Six judges had the envious task of tasting three different burritos, making notes on which one was worthy of being crowned the Best Burrito on the Central Coast during the Burrito Bash on Saturday.

The burritos were graded on their freshness, taste, aroma and other factors. In the end, a pork and chicken burrito smothered in mole won over the judges’ palates.

Watsonville-based Moles and Oaxacan Cuisine went home the winner during the third annual event at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds.

While the judges favored one burrito, the People’s Choice award, voted on by event attendees, went to Jardines de San Juan.

Moles and Oaxacan Cuisine chef Ana Mendoza and her son Daniel Hernandez accepted the award.

The company, which provides pop-up catering for events, finished runner-up during the Mole & Mariachi Festival at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park in September. Winning the top award at the Burrito Bash helps take away the sting of that close defeat, Hernandez said.

“You just have to keep on trying,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. We are happy and glad we got invited.”

Watsonville City Councilman Felipe Hernandez, who was one of the judges during the blind tasting, said Moles and Oaxacan Cuisine’s burrito stood out from the rest with its “immaculate” presentation.

More importantly, events such as the Burrito Bash show mobile catering companies that there are customers out there who would support a potential brick and mortar location, he said.

“This event inspires them to achieve that,” Hernandez said.

The Burrito Bash, put on by the Rotary Clubs of Freedom and Watsonville, was revived in 2015 after a roughly 20-year hiatus. All proceeds from the event support community service organizations.

Freedom Rotary President Ron Ince said he was thankful for the warm weather Saturday, after last year’s event was threatened by rain.

“If you didn’t come out, you missed a great party,” he said.

But burritos were not the only stars at the event. Keith Greeninger and Band, as well as The Ville, performed on stage throughout the day, and a car show attracted more than 30 hot rods on the fairgrounds’ lawn. Attendees also tried to see who could withstand the most heat during a jalapeno-eating contest.

Johnnie Benavidez of Watsonville-based Garcia’s Fish Tacos was cooking tortillas as a long line of hungry attendees waited to be served.

“The atmosphere is amazing,” he said. “What’s there to complain about?”

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