Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series Final Fire #CompDiningNC ~ Nik Snacks

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

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Welcome to the Got To Be NC Competition Dining Final Fire recap between Chef Tim Thompson of Greensboro, winner of 2014 Fire in the Triad and representing The Marisol with 2013 AND 2014 Fire in the Triangle winner Chef Dean Thompson of Raleigh, representing Flights.

Last night was the meeting of the minds and the commencement of two creative, talented chefs and their carefully selected teams of three that battled it out over the course of 2014 to determine the best of the best in the state of North Carolina.

For results of all three Final Fire Battle of Champions dinners, follow Competition Dining on Facebook or Twitter.

The third battle of Final Fire on November 21st played out to a full house of over 100 diners, hungrily awaiting who would be moving on to the Final Battle of Final Fire.

The night's secret ingredients: Windcrest Farms Organic Ginger, Islander Ginger Beer & Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter

TWO of the three had to be used in each course. And in true Competition Dining surprise fashion, the pros and the joes scores were weighted an equal 50/50! The night's judges: Cutthroat Kitchen winner and Executive Chef/Owner of Persimmons in New Bern, Gerry Fong, Steven Goff of King James Public House in Asheville, and Sam Ratchford of Vidalia in Boone.

Before we go on, I have to say: you all know I have a nut allergy and I knew going into this battle that one of the secret ingredients was going to be allergen. I decided to take one for the team. Team Comp Dining, that is, and soldier on and make it through each course. Much to my surprise, the Peanut Pecan Butter didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Now, I didn't crunch down on any whole nuts or deliberately slather the ingredients all over my gums and the roof of my mouth, but Benedryl did me proud and good last evening. And I lived to tell the story. Maybe I'm growing out of this allergy (FINALLY). Enough about me. Let's talk about the food.

Seared Scallop and Nueske’s Bacon-Wrapped Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter & Islander Ginger Beer Sausage, Ginger Beer Mushroom Sauce, Sous Vide Ginger Beer Sweet Potato, Citrus-Herb Cous Cous, Ginger Beer Cherry Jam, Peanut Dust
Presented by Chef Dean Thompson, this course was all about the ginger and that perfectly cooked scallop. Other than the juicy, succulent scallop, the couscous granules were fluffed and laced with a delicate ginger essence. The sausage was well-made and if you wrap anything in Nueske's bacon, you're going to get rave reviews.

Voter Score: 28.507
Pro Score: 23.333

Weighted Score: 25.920 


Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter & Panko-Crusted Lamb with Goat Cheese Crème Fraîche Mousse, Islander Ginger Beer & Basil Vinaigrette, Pickled Windcrest Farms Ginger, Beet & Ginger Beer-Marinated Dry Apple Salad
Presented by Chef Tim Thompson, this course was my personal favorite but it didn't really highlight the secret ingredients well. I can never get enough lamb and this lamb was treated well. It was tender, juicy and sat perfectly atop the goat cheese crème fraîche mousse. The peanut pecan butter panko crust fell off (which was okay by me) but it was soggy. The apple salad was a great tart contrast to the creaminess of the mousse but it didn't really taste of ginger either.

Voter Score: 27.174
Pro Score: 21.667

Weighted Score: 24.421  


Pepsi Soy Windcrest Farms Ginger Pork Belly with Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter Hoisin, Spicy Pumpkin & Gingered Peanut Pecan Butter Ravioli with Nueske’s Bacon Cream, Apple Fennel Slaw, Windcrest Farms Ginger Chip
Presented by Dean Thompson, this was EVERYBODY'S favorite course. It was perfect in every which way possible. The highest-scoring dish of the night, it highlighted everything. The pork belly was lacquered with this umami-tainted hoisin sauce that was laced with the peanut pecan butter and it was so smooth, Barry White could have probably used this stuff back in the day to woo women. The apple fennel slaw cut through the fat of the pork and the richness of the ravioli that was so thin and delicate, I almost felt sad that I had to eat  it. The crisp ginger chip on top of the pasta was so concentrated and spicy, it heightened and opened up your palate to receive all of the flavors of this dish.


Voter Score: 33.068
Pro Score: 29.667

Weighted Score: 31.368  

Islander Ginger Beer & Lemongrass-Braised Pork with Windcrest Farms Ginger Sweet Potato Purée, Peanut Cha! Veal Stock Reduction, Blueberry Ginger Beer Mint Gastrique, Ginger Beer Poached Asparagus
Presented by Tim Thompson, this course should be nicknamed after F. Scott Fitzgerald's fourth and final novel "Tender Is The Night" because the braised pork was soooo tender and what I consider Team Marisol's best course. The ginger sweet potato puree was the star of the dish and I could have eaten a whole plate of just that. In less than a week, I'm sure a quarter of the diners will attempt to make their own version for Thanksgiving. They were that good. Not so good, the ginger beer poached asparagus: they were bitter. But to counteract that, the Peanut Cha! reduction and blueberry gastrique were very well executed and shone on the plate as well.

Voter Score: 27.075
Pro Score: 18.000

Weighted Score: 22.537  

Dark Chocolate and Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter Torte, Oreo, Peanut Pecan Islander Ginger Beer Cake, Mousse Two Times, Chocolate Ganache, Banana Peanut & Chocolate Ice Cream, Windcrest Farms Ginger Custard, Salted Caramel, Candied Peanuts
So, I'm not a big dessert person. I'd rather have 6 savory courses than 1 fair-to-middling dessert that I have to drown out with copious amounts of coffee, port or beer. This course presented by Dean Thompson blew every expectation of dessert I had out of the water. The course was near perfect, except I detected not a milligram of ginger in the layer of ginger beer cake or the ginger custard. Other than that--this course was a winner in my book. The ice cream was rife with nuts and bolts and bits of things that reminded me of a turtle sundae and the torte itself had a beautiful, soft chocolate ganache sitting on top of all of the other layers. The second-highest scoring dish of the night garnered lots of applause from my table.


Voter Score: 33.534
Pro Score: 24.667

Weighted Score: 29.100  

Windcrest Farms Ginger Chocolate Truffle, Coconut Custard Ice Cream, Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter Cookie, Mango Islander Ginger Beer Coulis

Presented by Tim Thompson, this was the lowest scoring dish of the night. Presented with simplicity and subtle finesse, the ginger chocolate truffles were handrolled and dusted with cocoa powder. Normally chocolate and ginger marry very well, but here, the ginger was too strong and harsh and when tasted against the mango ginger beer coulis, it was a little unpleasant. The coconut custard ice cream was the best ice cream I've had in a very long time. Very creamy, unctious, smooth and technically perfect, I wished there had been more of it and that it had been GINGER!

Voter Score: 21.521
Pro Score: 16.000

Weighted Score: 18.760  

The numbers don't lie and after the scores were tallied and the applause commenced, it was Chef Dean Thompson and his team who bested Chef Tim Thompson to make it to the Final Battle of Champions of the 2014 Competition Dining season.

Congratulations to all of the chefs, teams, families and supporters who made it this far in the game. Until next year....

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