Fire in the Triad: The Bistro Vs B. Christopher's ~ Nik Snacks

Bite it and write it. That's what I do.


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The EIGHTH and final preliminary Fire in the Triad dinner took place Wednesday night. Chef Kristina Fuller of The Bistro in Greensboro versus Chef Chris Russell of B. Christopher's in Burlington sliced, diced and battled it out at The Painted Plate in Greensboro. Meet the chefs below:

Chef Kristina Fuller of The Bistro

Chef Chris Russell of B. Christopher's

Judges for the night:  Chef Jeff Bacon, program director and executive chef of Triad Community Kitchen, John Batchelor, food critic for Greensboro News & Record, and Michael Hastings, food editor for Winston-Salem Journal. I love it when foodies get together! Magic happens you know...

Michael Hastings and me

Host and creator, Jimmy Crippen has been doing Competition Dining dinners for 7 years. In 2012, he took his innovative idea, Fire on the Rock, across the state to Fire on the Dock, Fire in the Triangle and now, Fire in the Triad. The format has changed, the venues have changed, but the goal is all the same: Determining the best chef in the area while highlighting NC products and food.

The night's secret ingredient...

Poulet rouge fermier de Piedmont

These particular poulet rouge chickens are free range & raised in Winston-Salem! My Rosetta Stone-learned French told me that we were about to eat a lot of red farm chicken of the Piedmont region of North Carolina. After a little research, I learned that this particular poulet rouge is superior in flavor and meat texture. Companies and restaurants all over the East Coast source our area for these chickens poulet rouge. 

Cluck, cluck! Let's get to the food!

Sweet Onion & Crawfish Cornbread Crouton, Poulet Rouge Confit, Applewood Smoked Heirloom Tomato Chutney, Sweet & Spicy Chipotle Dijon Cream Sauce
This course was lots of words and lots of flavor and all packed into one single bite. I liked it but I wanted more of it. It was more of an amuse bouche (more French! I'm sorry!) than a first course, but it was tasty nevertheless. The crouton was dry (as they should be) and I think everyone at my table expected it to be a mini cornbread muffin and were disappointed that it was not.The confit was a little dry but the tomato chutney moistened it and made me forget about it. The cream sauce was definitely sweet, but the chipotle flavor was nonexistent.

Duck Fat Infused Poulet Rouge Leg Arancini di Riso, Dried Fruit Compote, Roasted Fig Demi-Glace
Holy rice balls, Batman! The photo does not do this course justice, but it was a fist-sized (okay, a toddler's fist), deep-fried rice ball filled with duck fat flavored poulet rouge that was so hot and fresh, I had to cut it open and wait a few minutes so it could cool down enough for me to eat it. Notice the thyme sticking out of the top. Normally, sprigs of any herb are tossed onto the table in frustration, but I let its savory, woodsy leaves flavor my dish and that made this dish taste better! The compote and demi-glace were great accompaniments to the arancini.

Fried Poulet Rouge, Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Soufflé, Savory Collard Greens, Fig & Currant Bordelaise
When this course's description flashed on the screen, I shouted (in real life and on Twitter), "We're TOTALLY having fried chicken and collard greens right now!" And what a dish it was! The fried crispy skin of the chicken came off of the breast and even though that is normally undesirable, I liked it because it gave me a chance to mix the bits between with the currant bordelaise and the collard greens. I didn't particularly care for the souffle, as it was not as sweet and brown sugary as promised.

Slow Smoked Poulet Rouge Wellington, Andouille Mushroom Duxelle, Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes, Lobster Chow Chow
Anything inside of a parcel of puff pastry is bound to be delicious, right? Who doesn't want to dig through hundreds of buttery layers of crusty pastry? I do! I do! Inside this wellington, the smoked poulet rouge was spiced nicely by the andouille duxelle, but it was dry. Very dry. The chow chow... was really just strips of carrot and zucchini with bits of lobster mixed in. The undocumented chicken gravy under the goat cheese mashed potatoes rocked my world. The potatoes were the best part of this dish.

Apple Basil Ice Cream, Spiced Candied Pine nuts, Five Spiced Poulet Rouge Chicharróns with Basil Ginger Coulis
Dessert time! I have been looking forward to a good dessert in this competition since Battle Cheerwine. The problem with dessert courses (in my personal opinion) is this: Chefs aren't bakers and bakers aren't chefs. Chef desserts are usually deconstructed pre-made products with a whipped cream or a mousse garnished with a sprig of mint. So we diners get short-changed in the final course department.

All of the being said, my faith in dessert humanity was restored with the fifth course. Creative, delicious, and perfect--I LOVED THIS DISH. The ice cream was creamy, sweet, delicious and the only drawback--bits of frozen apple were a bit unpleasant and I didn't care for that part. The pine nuts provided plenty of crunch that the dish needed. The basil ginger coulis: I could have drank gallons of that. Last but not least, the chicken skin chicharrón: BRILLIANT. A chicharron is basically a pork rind, except in this case, a chicken rind. The skin of the chicken (or pig) is rendered and then deep fried in oil so that it puffs up.

Sweet Jalapeno Cornbread Muffin, Honey Maple Pulled Poulet Rouge Confit, Meyer Lemon Mousse and Sweet Guava Beurre Noisette
More dessert! Yes!
There was debate at my table as to whether this last course was dessert or not. I say: Yes. Others: No.

Muffin + mousse + sweet brown butter = dessert.
The cornbread muffin was soaked in duck fat, to keep it moist and had a negligible amount of jalapeno flavor. The shreds of poulet rouge were delicious and sweet and seemed to just sit on top of the muffin just because it was required of the dish. The meyer lemon mousse was successful, but the best part of this dish was the sweet guava beurre noisette. Mmm mmm mmm... I kept running my spoon around the plate, hoping to pick up more of it as my muffin and mousse were gone.

At this point, it was barely 9:30 in the evening. Each Competition Dining night, I'm lucky if I pull out of the Painted Plate parking lot at 10:15 and arrive home by the 11:00 news. This night was the hottest, fastest night yet.

Interesting facts:
It was revealed that Chef Fuller apprenticed under Chef Russell when she first started working in the industry. Talk about the grasshopper meeting the master!

Chef Fuller's team consisted of herself and two chefs from Fincastles and the former Vintage 301 in Greensboro. In the rules of the competition, chefs can compete on another restaurant's team but only once during the competition.

In the end, the winner was Chef Kristina Fuller from The Bistro! Congratulations, Chef!
Check out those tats! TOTAL BADASS! Love. It.

For a breakdown of courses and scoring, please visit Competiton Dining.

Fire In The Triad Semifinal Brackets
September 5
September 12
Milner's VS The Bistro