Squash ‘N Swine: Its the semi finals round one between Chef Phil Barnes of Roosters and Chef Brent Martin of The Peculiar Rabbit. The closest match up yet, Barnes slides into the finals by a .29 of a point spread!

It was Battle Pope & Son Farms ‘Winter Squash & Cheshire Pork Butts and Loins

Strategy session for team Roosters

Strategy session for team Roosters

Strategy session for Team Peculiar Rabbit

Strategy session for Team Peculiar Rabbit

It was the first night of the Fire in the City Competition Dining semifinals and now with only two more nights in the series; it all seems as if  this past month and half since it all started has just flown by.

The evening of October 14 found chef Phil Barnes and his team Zach Renner and Ryan Daugherty from Rooster’s in the kitchen up against Chef Brent Martin and his team Geoffrey Frederick Bragg and Andrew Melton from The Peculiar Rabbit – A Jackalopes Restaurant.

I knew from the get go that it would be a close battle as these chef all had their A game going and more.

The secret ingredients (plural) were North Carolina’s seasonal winter squash from NC’s Pope & Sons Farms – acorn, spaghetti and butternut squash to be more specific…

Pope & Sons butternut squash

Pope & Sons butternut squash

Pope & Sons Acorn Squash

Pope & Sons Acorn Squash

Pope & Sons Spaghetti Squash

Pope & Sons Spaghetti Squash

chesireporkLOGO3And, as is the case in many Competition Dining dinners – the announcement of this first secret ingredient this night was  followed with the phrase…but, that’s not all.
This night NC Cheshire Pork pork tenderloin and pork butt were also in the list of secret ingredients.

So, here were the rules for the chefs from Roosters  and The Peculiar Rabbit this evening – every dish had to include at least one squash and a minimum of two of each team’s dishes needed to include pork.

Area sales staff from Southern Foods - from left Todd, Robert, Jon and GT

Area sales staff from Southern Foods – from left Todd, Robert, Jon and GT – join the chefs each morning before the competition.

The infamous Mobile Pantry

The infamous Mobile Pantry

The area sales staff from Southern Foods was there for the noontime chefs meeting to lend their support as they have been for each and every Competition Dining dinner.

Pate Dawson – Southern Foods is the title sponsor for the competition providing all the condiments, produce and product in the Competition’s now well-known mobile pantry.

One of the rules of the game is that chefs must only work with the produce and product stocked fresh for  each battle direct form Pate Dawson – Southern Foods to  the mobile pantry.  Each team of three chefs arrive early to check out what the pantry may hold this day and to refresh themselves with the layout of the Bonterra Dining and Wine Room kitchen.

In the true spirit of Competition Dining, all six chefs help to plate all six plates during service

In the true spirit of Competition Dining, all six chefs help to plate all six plates during service

The chefs had a ton of fun and joked around a bit at the start of this the first of the semi final battles, but took the task at hand very seriously and cooked like they have never cooked before.
In the end the spread was by less than a third of a point – .29 to be exact – the tightest battle in the competition so far. The win went to Phil, Zach and Ryan.

Chef Phil Barnes from Rooster’s goes to the finals of Fire in the City on Monday October 21 up against Chef Jon Fortes from Mimosa Grill. Can’t wait! But first lets recap this the first of the semi final battles.

Herein lies this night’s tale of squash and swine…

Course one for the team at The Peculiar Rabbit

Course one for the team at The Peculiar Rabbit

Course 1 was from Chef Brent Martin – a small pool of Pope & Son Farms Butternut Crema, slightly sweet, topped with a savory rich Pumpkin Ale Braised Cheshire Pork Butt and Apple & Red Cabbage Choucroute or sauerkraut. A nice way to start.

Course Two from Chef Phil Barnes

Course Two from Chef Phil Barnes

Course 2 from Chef Phil Barnes looked similar to course one in terms of presentation but yielded a totally different flavor. The pork choice here was a Wood Grilled Smoked Cheshire Pork Loin nicely done and served sliced over a Pope & Son Farms Butternut Squash Agrodulce ( a sauce or side with a sweet and sour flavor) with Acorn Squash Puree, Watercress and a lovely crunch of Fried Parsnips on top.

Course three from Chef Brent Martin

Course three from Chef Brent Martin

In Course 3, Chef Brent Martin moved from pork butt to pork loin and in this dish used the Cheshire Pork Belly to stuff the Pork Loin. The roulade of pork sat atop some delicious Chorizo Collards
Pope & Son Farms Acorn Squash Custard, Beet Reduction
Sweet Pepper & Cherry Agrodulce, Crispy Spaghetti Squash on top –  hard to pick just one this night but this was perhaps my favorite plate of the evening and  high scorer for Chef Martin.

Course Four from Chef Phil Barnes

Course Four from Chef Phil Barnes

Course 4 from Chef Phil Barnes was a heartier course, a Cheshire Pork and Pumpkin Ale Sugo (or Romanesco Tomato sauce) with
Pope & Son Farms Spaghetti Squash Pasta, Roasted Red Peppers and  Pickled Apples – a clever play on a pasta & sauce and a favorite of many diners in attendance.

Course five from Brent Martin

Course five a dessert plate  from Brent Martin

Course 5 was the dessert from Chef Brent Martin. As chefs this evening were not required to include pork in all three dishes, Martin elected to do without for dessert and instead focus on incorporating the squash. His cheesecake was delicious, but the way-too-much gelatin in the chocolate and butternut squash mix which wrapped the round of cheesecake was a disaster. Pro judges at my table agreed that the dish would have been so much better had he left the chocolate off and somehow incorporated the squash in the cheesecake. The plate was finished with a tasty Blackberry Compote, a Strawberry Coulis,  and round of crunch in the “Biscuitti” which topped the plate.

The dessert plate from Chef Phil Barnes

The dessert plate from Chef Phil Barnes

Chef Ref  Billy Seay portions out the rum

Always there to help when they can, Chef Ref Billy Seay portions out the rum

In Course Six, Chef Phil Barnes and the Roosters’ team decided to press themselves and include both secret ingredients – pork and squash in their final dish. Barnes’ Pope & Son Farms Butternut Squash Semifreddo worked will with a side tart of Baba Au Rhum, topped with a fabulous Cheshire Pork Cherry Apple Jam – I could have eaten a bowlful of this porkcentric condiment alone.

The plate was finished with a Acorn Squash Coulis

Jimmy Crippens interviews Chef Phil Barnes after the first semi final  of squash and swine

Jimmy Crippen interviews Chef Phil Barnes after the first semi final of squash and swine

Ending scores were so close it could have been anyone’s game right up until the end when Competition Dining host Jimmy Crippen announced the final scores- Chef  Phil Barnes – 19.402 and Chef Brent Martin 19.114! Congrats and Kudos to all six chefs for a great evening of fun and fabulous food!

int he house for the first of the semi final battles of Competition Dining's Fire in the City from left - Art Gallagher from J&W university, official blogger, Heidi Billotto and Roosters' own Chef Jim Nobles

In the  house for the first of the semi final battles of Competition Dining’s Fire in the City from left – Art Gallagher from J&W University; official blogger, Heidi Billotto and Roosters’ own Chef Jim Nobles

In the house this night – Professional Judges  for the evening, Art Gallagher, President of Johnson & Wales University, Chef Marc Jacksina of the soon to be open Nan and Byron’s on South Blvd. and  foodie Amy Rogers of WFAEeats, with special celebrity guest Michelle Boudin of WCNC. – A pleasure to see  all them in attendance.

For more information on Roosters Wood-Fired Kitchen, located at 6601 Morrison Blvd, Charlotte; 704.366.8688 with a sister restaurant Roosters Uptown at 150 N College St, Charlotte; 704.370.7667, visit www.RoostersKitchen.com  Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen on Urbanspoon

For more information on The Peculiar Rabbit (celebrating its one year anniversary this month), and located at 1212 Pecan Ave  Charlotte; 704.333.9197, visit  www.ThePeculiarRabbit.com

Competition Dining T-shirts available at every dinner and online for all shapes and sizes!

Competition Dining T-shirts available at every dinner and online for all shapes and sizes!

the Official Competition Dining T-Shirt - get yours today!

the Official Competition Dining T-Shirt – get yours today!

For information on purchasing your very own Competition Dining North Carolina grown and manufactured T-shirt, visit competitiondining.com

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