ONE HUNDRED NINETY TWO, almost 200 of the best chefs from the best restaurants in all of the state, put their creativity, experience and reputations on the line for the goodness that is Competition Dining.
Chef Michael Foreman of Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock, the most seasoned Fire competitor (He was a semifinalist in 2011) battled it out with the alliterative Chef Ryan Payne of Weathervane in Chapel Hill.
Judges for the evening: Kat Kinsman, Managing Editor for CNN's food blog, Eatocracy; Daniel Benjamin, pastry chef at Herons at the Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary; Dathan Kazsuk, blogger and design editor for Triangle Business Journal; Evan Nash of Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte; Chef Scott Craig, Executive Chef of Myers Park Country Club in Charlotte and fellow food blogger. And again, 70% of these folks' scores accounted for the total of the night's dishes.
The night's secret ingredient(s): Hog jowls and cushions AND Pepsi.
What's a jowl? What's a cushion? What the--
Well, a hog jowl is merely the cheek of the pig. It's smoked, cured and looks like streaky bacon.
A pork cushion is not slang for pork butt. It's the picnic or the shoulder part of the pig.
Now that you know the nitty, let's get down to the gritty.
First course: Pepsi-Braised Jowl Bacon with Black Pepper Biscuit, Pepsi-Black Currant Red Eye Gravy, Candied Jowl Jelly & Potato Egg presented by Chef Foreman.
Second course: Sweet Potato Ravioli with Confit Pork Jowl, Pepsi-Brown Sage Butter & Balsamic Pepsi Reduction presented by Chef Payne
Third course: House-Made Jowl Pancetta Risotto with Taos-Style Braised Pork Cushion, Dos Equis Beer-Pepsi Jus & Pine Nut-Cumin Pistou presented by Chef Foreman
Fourth course: Korean BBQ Style Pepsi Braised Pork Cushion with Pork Fat Seared Grit Cake, Collards, Crispy Pork Jowl & Confit Tomatoes presented by Chef PayneProgresso soup commercial where the lady calls the kitchen to ask to speak to her grandma. My grandma was in the kitchen of the Renaissance hotel last night. I'm sure of it.
At this point of the night, two things were happening: A) I was tired and wanted to slide down underneath the table for a disco nap B) Chef Foreman was ahead in points. It's been said before and I'll say it again: Desserts make this competition. It's always "Do or Die" at this juncture.
Fifth course: Pepsi-Bittersweet Chocolate Torte with Pepsi-Ginger Poached Asian Pear, Jowl Scented Five-Spice Mousse & Pistachio Pork Cracklin’ Nougat presented by Chef Foreman
Sixth course: Pork Fat Funnel Cake with Buttermilk Cake, Pepsi-Apple Ice Cream, Candied Pork Jowl & Cherry Pepsi Syrup presented by Chef Payne
I don't mind sharing my voting scores with you. The fine, talented folks at h.IT Solutions created the platform for us to be able to vote via smartphone, tablet and PDA. I may have liked a dish, but my votes definitely reflect scoring in regards to the expectations and parameters of the rubric system. You're always free to go back and change your scores throughout the night, but I wouldn't have changed a thing.
|Playing the waiting game|
Congratulations to Chef Payne for winning the 2012 Competition Dining Series Battle of Champions. Everyone wants to come to the Weathervane now! Congratulations to Chef Foreman for making some of the best food I've had in a while. It was an honor and a pleasure to have the opportunity to eat your food. I can't wait to visit The Rock and dine at Bistro Roca.
Competition Dining Fire battles begin again in January... stay tuned and get your forks ready, folks!