Luv to Luv You: Part 4 ~ Nik Snacks

Bite it and write it. That's what I do. Fueled by butterbeans & collard greens.

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The denouement. The final beck. The final call. The last night of a week's worth of grill-inspired menus, wine, beer, spirits and Day 5 (night #4 for me) of the Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival! It's been a wonderful, fabulous whirlwind of a culinary ride and I'd never been so sad to see a Saturday night arrive.

Saturday's guest chef was the infamous famous, Ray Lampe (Chef Grady Spears was unable to join us; Maybe next year...)! Also known as Dr. BBQ, Chef Ray has appeared on numerous television shows, in numerous national publications and newspapers and has written five cookbooks chronicling his expertise as an outdoor cook. Straight from St. Petersburg, Florida, Ray brought his smoke and fire to town.

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First Course: Molasses-rubbed Van Vooren game ranch guinea hen stuffed with green chile hominy paired with Beasley's Honey White beer from Fullsteam Brewery

I didn't taste the robust, bittersweet flavor of molasses but that didn't matter because this guinea hen was full of robust, smoky flavor. The hominy was buttery, creamy and mild. I enjoyed two glasses of the Honey white by the time I'd finished my hen, and I knew I was going to be in trouble when I saw the next course...

Second Course: Dr. BBQ's Grand Champion pork spare ribs with
Cheerwine BBQ sauce, 
blue cheese coleslaw, jalapeno cornbread paired with Fullsteam Brewery's Summer Basil beer
Ribs, ribs, they're good for your heart. The more you eat--okay, that's not how the rhyme goes, but it should. These ribs went straight to my soul and talked to me. Sweet, caramelized, juicy, fatty, crispy, cherry-flavored whispers in my ear. Chef Ray knows what he's doing. I am convinced of this. And that's why he won on his episode of Chopped: Grill Masters. I do wonder, however, how his sauce would stack up to mine. The coleslaw was full of chunks of blue cheese and bits of bacon. The cornbread--it needed some help. It wasn't dry, but I didn't taste any of jalapeno and it was a little too sweet to accompany those sweet, Cheerwine-basted ribs.


Third Course: Shire Gate Farms beef tenderloin, hollandaise, mashed potatoes, two-tomato jam paired with 
Black Mocha Stout from Highland Brewing
This course was a run-of-the-mill offering of a tenderloin with traditional sides. I do believe that Ray attempted to create a course that Grady Spears may have presented. The menu read "cowboy coffee rub", "diablo hollandaise" and "crispy onions"--neither of which were on our plates. I won't hold that against anyone. I would have liked to have some spice in this dish... a little Texas Pete would have been nice... I wish my chives had been chopped finer and I didn't eat the garnish. I was getting close to full saturation at this point and approaching the Point Of No Return, fast.
I will say this about grass-fed vs corn-fed beef: grass-fed tastes better, but the texture takes some getting used to. It's a little chewy and the grain is softer when you cut into it.


Fourth Course: Chopped Inspired--Moon Pie Quesadilla with Peach & Black Olive Compote paired with Workingman's Lunch from Fullstream Brewery
As I mentioned before, Ray was on Chopped and he brought the show to us by recreating the dish me made during the dessert round of his episode. The ingredients worked, but if I saw this on a menu, I'm not sure I'd order it. The Moon Pie was definitely the best part here. I opened my tortilla and scraped out the pieces of pie and ate that. The compote was a little too sweet and the olive bits a bit too tart, but Ray explained to our table that the peaches he used in the Arizona desert were white peaches and perfect for what he was trying to accomplish. Now that it's the height of peach season, the ones here are very ripe and sweet.

A word about chefs' desserts: Most chefs can't bake and most bakers can't cook. Chefs' desserts usually consist of a conglomeration of re-assembled items that are tied together with a sauce, fruit, ice cream or gelato. It's kind of sad, actually. But hey--at least they try.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Fullsteam!

My Sweet Summer Luv Luv adventures have come to an end. I can honestly say, it was wonderful being wined, dined, liquored up and lacquered down over the course of the week. I met some amazing, talented chefs who are the best at what they do and were so gracious to come to Winston-Salem. I met some amazing, interesting people who I hope to see again in the near future, as well.


Me & Chef Ray Lampe. I was in good company, for sure.

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