Editor’s note: Brittany Arnold is the editor for Douglas County Family and frequent contributor to The News-Review Tasty Tuesday food section. The following is a first-person account of what it was like be a judge for The Great Umpqua Food Competition.

I lick my lips and taste sweet, tangy, maple, vanilla and salt. Barbecue sauce still lingers in the corners of my mouth. My fingers are greasy and my palate beyond satisfied. As I attempt to rub the sauce dribble out of my shirt, I put in minimal effort as I am glazed over in some sort of food coma. Phew, that was amazing food.

I had the opportunity to sit onstage as a final judge at the second annual Great Umpqua Food Truck Competition on Wednesday and got to savor food — incredible food. And yes, made from a food truck.

While I am a girl who appreciates fine dining, I am a large proponent of not judging a book by its cover. Often times the best things are found where you least expect them: the hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, the dive bar, the takeout stand and yes, the food truck.

I met these talented chefs that stand inside hot, small food trucks and serve up award-winning food all in a paper dish or foil wrapper. All the exterior fluff doesn’t matter — the flavors, culture, creativity and passion behind each meal blew me away. I almost was a replay of Meg Ryan’s restaurant scene in “When Harry Met Sally” and then I remembered I was in front of an audience. Trust me, you would have wanted what I was having.

The first place dish by Salem-area food truck, FUEL Mobile Kitchen, was right up my alley. Gourmet comfort food at its finest. They served judges their Chik’a’Macallit which was a sage-chicken sausage topped with maple-dijon slaw, fried chicken skin, and roasted pepper-rosemary jam on vanilla-maple waffles. I just needed a sweet tea on the side and then a bed to lie down on.

I also had three helpings of serious cowboy chow — locals Rolling Thunder BBQ and Smokey G’s BBQ, as well as Big Fat Weiners from Portland — are hands-down bacon experts.

As if the bacon wasn’t enough, Smokey G’s served a potato salad without the potato. Instead, cauliflower. Before you think it couldn’t be as good, trust me it was and I am an Irish potato-loving girl. And a thousand more points when you can reduce calories but not taste. Smokey, send recipe please.

Culture was captured not only in presentation but in piquancy with the handful of finalists such as Wok Star, Tam’s Place Vietnamese Cuisine, and locals Dragon Wagon and Salud.

Congratulations to the winners, but to all of the food trucks in the final round — keep feeding people, you’re really good at it.

Brittany Arnold is the Douglas County Family editor and can be reached at barnold@nrtoday.com.

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