WOW! In a word that covers what happened the evening of October 8 in the last Quarter-Final battle of Competition Dining held at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room. Six talented chefs plus two amazing Chef Refs – turned out a collective 840 plates (!) of food for a packed dining room of very excited diners. TV chefs on “Chopped”, “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef” have nothing on these guys. You just gotta give it up to these chefs when one team decides to do 150 perfectly poached eggs and the other plans for 150 creamy mushroom souffles! Incredible!
The secret ingredients this night – yes that is plural – were Charlotte’s own First Noodle Company and Local NC Fogwood Food Shiitakes. So, you take an Italian born and bred chef and a chef at a Mexican restaurant and you give them Asian noodles – what do you get? More than you ever expected!
The talent in the kitchen: Chefs Vincent Giancarlo and his team from Cantina 1511 and Luca Annunziata and the team from PassionEight Bistro. These guys can up with six deliciously creative courses from soup to nuts – literally.
Team Passion 8 won this quarter final battle and goes on to the semi finals against Chef Jon Fortes from Mimosa Grill on October 15.
Its no secret that team Cantina 1511 were the underdogs in this competition – they came in late after there had been a cancellation and they are the youngest trio of chefs in the competition. But they held their own all the way to the quarter finals and did well in this battle of noodles and ‘shrooms. They will best be remembered in this inaugural series of Fire in the City for the Texas Pete Fire roasted tomato ice cream from the first round of elimination battles and the fact that they cooked strong in this quarter final battle.
This day the chefs from Cantina did their best but got out-cooked by the more experienced team of talented chefs at Passion 8 Bistro. The battle was tough and everyone took it seriously, but still had tons of fun together which is what Jimmy Crippen’s Competition Dining is all about - however, these chefs weren’t just noodling around in the kitchen – here’s what happened…. it all started with two courses of soup…
Course 1 was a tasty Five Spice Seared Day Boat Mahi, resting in a Fogwood Shiitake Consommé with Sesame Blanched First Noodle Co. Egg Noodles and a Shiitake Mushroom Kimchi.
The broth was good but not as full flavored as it could be, and the kimchi was a vibrant touch, but the downfall for Giancarlo in this plate were sadly overcooked noodles and the plate scored lower that Cantina 1511 would have liked.
Course 2 was from Passion 8 and this Fogwood Shiitake Mushroom Broth was bold and full of deep flavor; served with with Braised Cheshire Pork
Poached Egg, Nori, Bok Choy, Peppers, Pickled Asian Pear it was outstanding. If you are asking, my favorite part was the compressed noodles – perhaps my new favorite food and the poached egg on top made the dish. These chefs gotta take risks – poaching 150 eggs to order is a big one but it worked and the scores reflected the chefs decision to take a chance,
After the soup, both chefs elected to do a protein. Both of these courses were good and scored pretty evenly…
Course 3 was a very well executed fork-tender Wood Grilled Venison Loin with Creamed Leek; served with a Red Wine Demi-glace, Fogwood Shiitake Duxelle First Noodle Co. Purse and a Shiitake Duxelle Soufflé with Late Season NC Roma Tomato Jam from Team Cantina 1511 and chef Vincent Giancarlo. Making soufflés for 150 is another gutsy move, although these were not free standing, they were delicious and a nice foil to the venison.
Course 4 from Chef Luca Annunziata was another hearty course, this plate featuring lamb with a soft tender Roasted Fogwood Shiitake and Goat Cheese Dumpling. On the plate a bed of arugula dressed with lemon-ginger aioli and a Sweet Potato Coulis on the side – Lamb was perfectly cooked and the dumpling delish!
Ummmm, desserts with noodles I totally get; desserts with Mushrooms not so much, but thee chefs made it work -
Course 5 from Chef Vincent Giancarlo was an Espresso-Fogwood Shiitake Ice Cream sandwiched inbetween two rcrispy rounds made from First Noodle Co. Fried Wontons. The concept was a good one but for me and for a lot of the crowd, the earthiness of the mushrooms didn’t translate well into this ice cream even with the addition of the coffee to tone it down. I did love the Candied Ginger Syrup and while I probably wouldn’t order the Sweet Shiitake Wet Peanuts again, they were interesting enough to keep me coming back for more
Course 6 from Passion 8 Bistro was another dessert – as strange as a Roasted Fogwood Shiitake Fruitcake with Almonds sounds, it worked and the Banana Infused Chocolate Ganache; the Fennel-Orange Salad and the crunch of the First Noodle Co. Wonton Cracker made it all the better.
Once scores were locked in, the packed house watched as Chef Luca Annunziata took the lead and the win. Luca competes in the second round of Semi finals against Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill on October 15, 2013.
For more information on Fogwood Shiitake Mushrooms visit http://fogwoodfood.com/shiitake-mushrooms/
For more information about First Noodle Company, in Charlotte since 1987, visit http://www.firstnoodleco.com/