Fire in the Triad: [Part Deux] Battle Seasonal Produce #CompDiningNC ~ Nik Snacks

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


Read this blog for a nightly recap of Fire in the Triad posts to stay in the loop. You can also follow me on twitter @niksnacks and the hashtag #CompDiningNC for live updates during each battle (The semifinals begin May 27 at 7pm). Please also "like" Competition Dining on Facebook and on the web.
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Tuesday night it was Chef Richard Miller of Graze in Winston-Salem and Chef Travis Myers of River Birch Lodge. Both chefs are not new to the Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series, as Richard was on Team WS Prime in 2013 and Travis competed in 2013 as well.
Little known fact: Both chefs are also good ol' boys, born and raised in the Piedmont.

The Chef Refs have put a number on we diners this time during the quarterfinals. Double Chestnut Flour last week and GUESS WHAT: Double battles of spring produce this time, too. Fogwood Farm butter pecan syrup AND Smith Farms Pea Shoots, Arugula and Swiss Chard--again!

The food was better Tuesday night and the caliber of dishes was raised as well. It was not a runaway hit and each chef felt the pressure of the Joes and the Pros this night.

Guest judges, media and noted luminaries: Lauren Melvin and Tracey McCain of WFMY-2, Wes Patterson of Southern Roots in Jamestown, John Batchelor, restaurant reviewer for Greensboro News & Record, Laura Dominguez, pastry chef of Green Valley Grill, in Greensboro.

Course 1
Heritage Farms Pork Belly, Old Mill of Guilford Romano Cheese Grits, Smith Farms
Baby Swiss Chard, Pork Gastrique

Presented by River Birch Lodge

Voter Score: 27.61
Pros Score: 27.67
Weighted Score: 27.63

The pork belly was cooked nicely, but it was very fatty. There is nothing wrong with those creamy, fatty layers of subcutaneous lipids in between the salty layers of pork belly, but tonight, it just wasn't its night. I peeled away my fat and ate the pork meat. The grits were good. And the arugula too. It was a solid dish, but not too creative or over the top.

Course 2
Cast Iron Seared Fogwood Foods Shiitake Dusted Breast of Duck, Smith Farms
Arugula & Parsnip Puree, Lemongrass Ponzu, Pickled Shiitake & Pea Shoot Salad
Presented by Graze

Voter Score: 28.17
Pros Score: 20.00
Weighted Score: 25.72

This was the single best piece of duck I've ever eaten. I didn't even know (or care) that it was duck until I'd eaten every bit. The pickled mushrooms, the shiitake dust, the pea shoots, the arugula, the ponzu--everything was well composed and went together beautifully in this dish. I never order duck when I go out, but I'd order this one again. Absolutely.

Course 3
Cast Iron Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast, Roasted Poblano Risotto, Sauteed Fogwood
Farms Shiitakes, Smith Farms Pea Shoot Salad

Presented by River Birch Lodge

This duck was still talking to me when it came to the table. My pieces were wayyyyy toooo rarrrrre. It was still doing The Wobble Dance when it came to the table. Outside of that, the pea shoots were just freshness added to the plate and tasted a lot like grass. I've only willingly eaten grass clippings once and the only difference is these were fresh and tossed with a dressing. the poblano risotto was underseasoned. The duck was underseasoned. Everything was underwhelming.

Course 4
Cheshire Pork Tenderloin & Seared Venison Loin, Himalayan Red Rice Risotto with
Fogwood Foods Shiitakes & Smith Farms Chard, Swiss Chard Confetti, Blueberry &
Bleu Cheese Demi Glace
Presented by Graze

Voter Score: 24.06
Pros Score: 12.67
Weighted Score: 20.64

That pork tenderloin though...
The best part of this dish was coated with the blueberry blue cheese dressing and I think it was folded in the "risotto" as well. It was not the prettiest dish, all of the brown with the little specs of red were kind of weird, but it was the most flavorful of the savory dishes. I have to give a high five to the creative department regarding the "chard confetti". My venison was a tiny bit too rare for my liking, but the pork saved the day: juicy, soft, tender... mmm.

Course 5
Toffee Pudding Cake, Apple Ice Cream, Salted Caramel, Fogwood Foods Buttered
Pecan Tuille, Poached Apples & Thyme
Presented River Birch Lodge

Voter Score: 29.82
Pros Score: 28.00
Weighted Score: 30.86

Myself and another person with a nut allergy received allergen-free tuille pieces and no butter pecan syrup. I have to admit: I've been allergic to nuts since the tender age of 14. I don't miss nuts at all. I don't miss peanut butter, but I remember munching on peanut brittle from Zayres with my grandma and helping her roast (eat) redskin peanuts hot and crispy from the oven, and I don't even miss the little cookies decorated with a peanut half from our favorite Chinese restaurant. The one thing I miss is butter pecan ice cream. I wished I had the syrup to soak into my disk of yellow cake, but I did not. It was dry, this cake. Like a yellow Brill-O sponge, it was. The ice cream was expertly made but there was no creativity in regards to the butter pecan syrup. The caramel was delicious and I'm sure the tuille was too (mine was GREAT: Roasty, toasty and lightly sweetened) but meh.

Course 6
Dark Chocolate Fogwood Foods Buttered Pecan Torte, Lavender Crème Fraiche Cheesecake, Buttered Pecan Graham Cracker Crust, Rum-Buttered Pecan Ganache, Shredded Phyllo

Presented by Graze

Voter Score: 32.09
Pros Score: 28.00
Weighted Score: 30.86

Put chocolate on a plate (or in a bowl) and people will eat it, love it and score it very highly. The most complex and creative dish of the night, this course sealed the deal on the fate of the winner. My allergen-free version was excellent. I did not pick up any lavender notes, but I think the honey that was used to sweeten the deal was lavender honey. It was flipping fantastic. In my personal opinion, it was overly sweet and I could taste granules of sugar, but it was a great dish. It truly was the cat's pajamas. Wait--cats don't wear pajamas!

FIRE IN THE TRIAD SEMIFINALS: Graze Vs Spring House AND Meridian Vs Marisol

It's starting to get personal now. It's very close to home, all of these chefs, their restaurants and their distinct cuisines.

All the teams and chefs are worthy of the title as King of Winston-Salem (or Greensboro). The guys are good. Very good. I can truly say that this "dream team" of chefs is truly the best the competition has to offer. Those chefs that did not make it this far--it's not that they aren't good. It's just their competition had a better day.

There are only three battles remaining and the final battle is sold out. All of these guys are hungry and so are you. Get YOUR TICKETS NOW. Follow us on social media, get in on the conversation. We won't bite. Hard.

About The Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series: This 15-dinner competition dining experience has traveled across the state of North Carolina to Asheville/Blowing Rock (Fire on the Rock), Wilmington (Fire on the Dock) and Greensboro (Fire in the Triad). Raleigh (Fire in the Triangle) and Charlotte (Fire in the City) are slated for later the summer and fall.

We are all chefs, farmers or diners: Thank you to the following sponsors for making the Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series possible--NC Department of Agriculture, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, Go, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, Joyce Farms, Texas Pete, hITs Tech, Certified Angus Beef, Cheshire Pork by Heritage Farms, NC Restaurant & Lodging Association, NC Egg Farmers, Office of State Fire Marshals