Battle Texas Pete between Chef Vincent Giancarlo of Cantina 1511 and Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington’s. Giancarlo and the Cantina 1511 team pull off an upset with an unexpected win!

Chef Bruce Moffett Barrington's Restaurant

Chef Bruce Moffett
Barrington’s Restaurant

Chef Vincent Giancarlo Cantina 1511

Chef Vincent Giancarlo
Cantina 1511

September 24 marked the date for Battle 8 of the Fire in the City Competition Dining. The last of the preliminary rounds of competition this night was between Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington’s Restaurant and Chef Vincent Giancarlo of Cantina 1511. As always the chefs arrived at Bonterra Dining and Wine room around 11 or so to check out the kitchen and the well -stocked mobile pantry provided by Pate Dawson – Southern Foods specifically for the event. At noon they sat down with Competition Dining creator and host Jimmy Crippen to review the video presentation for the evening, go over the rules and learn the secret ingredient.

texas peteTurns out this last night of preliminary rounds belonged to North Carolina’s own Texas Pete!

To find out more about this flavorful NC hot sauce I turned to the Texas Pete website:

Even the waitstaff at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room got into the Texas Pete theme of the evening

Even the waitstaff at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room got into the Texas Pete theme of the evening

You may be wondering how is it that a tasty red pepper sauce made in North Carolina happens to be named Texas Pete? Well, legend has it that, when Sam Garner and his three sons, Thad, Ralph and Harold, were trying to come up with a name for this spicy new sauce they had created, a marketing advisor suggested the name ”Mexican Joe” to connote the piquant flavor reminiscent of the favorite foods of our neighbors to the south. But Sam wanted more of  an all-American name and suggested the word “Texas”, a state that  also had a reputation for spicy cuisine be used in the name. Then, he glanced at son Harold, whose nickname was ”Pete” and the Texas Pete cowboy was born.

Team Barrington's; from left, Chef Mike Vergili, Chef Kerry Moffett and Chef Bruce Moffett

Team Barrington’s; from left, Chef Mike Vergili, Chef Kerry Moffett and Chef Bruce Moffett

Team Cantina 1511: From left, Chef Kyle Biddy, Chef Vincent Giancarlo and Chef Greg Balch

Team Cantina 1511: From left, Chef Kyle Biddy, Chef Vincent Giancarlo and Chef Greg Balch

While it  is interesting to look at now – nothing much about the story of Texas Pete mattered to the chefs from Barrington’s and Cantina last Tuesday morning.

All that really mattered was that each team was told they had a minimum of 2 gallons of the full flavored hot sauce with which to work; and, in the end, present three different plates each to nearly 130 dinner guests.

It was going to be a heated battle for sure.

You could see the wheels in the heads of these chefs turning as they made plans for the short 6 hours they now had to prep and cook before the battle began.   In this food writer’s opinion, the skill involved this night would be in using this secret ingredient to its full potential – underscoring the flavor of the sauce without over accentuating the sauce’s heat.

So how did the chefs prepare for this evening of Competition Dining?

Cantina owner Ben Filmalter told me in advance of the battle, that for his team at Cantina 1511, it was like entering a David vs Goliath situation.

They were definitely the underdogs going up against Moffett and his team from  Barrington’s Restaurants, one of Charlotte’s most popular places to dine; the #1 Zagat-rated restaurant in Charlotte  and one of AOLs top 11 restaurants in the country.

The Cantina chefs prepared themselves with weekly meetings trying to anticipate secret ingredients and figure what they would do in a worst case situation aka – how do we make dessert if the secret ingredient is fish? After having attended an early battle, Filmalter offered his team the following advice: to keep dishes colorful and simple, keep descriptives easy to understand; and he said that he felt the dessert plate would most certainly be the make it or break it moment of the evening.

As it turns out this last piece of advice was a very accurate prediction of things to come.

Here is what happened as we, the collective dining audience, that night ate are way through six Texas Pete laced plates of sensational savory and sweet offerings.

Course 1 by Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington's Restaurant

Course 1 by Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington’s Restaurant

Course 1 was a delightful way to begin. Chef Moffett’s Texas Pete® Marinated Ceviche of NC Shrimp Maine Lobster and Little River Lump Crab sat in a pool of pleasantly piquant Citrus-Tomato Gazpacho, and was topped with a Root Vegetable Salad and Cilantro.   The plate was exceptionally well done – the flavor of the Texas Pete was there but understated enough to be noticed without overpowering the fresh taste of the seafood.

Course 2 by Chef Vincent Giancarlo of Cantina 1511

Course 2 by Chef Vincent Giancarlo of Cantina 1511

Course 2 a starter from Chef Giancarlo was also delicious; but here  the taste of the Texas Pete® used to Brine the Maple Leaf Farms Breast of Duck served with a Golden Beet Puree, Baby Arugula & Radish Salad, Texas Pete® Vinaigrette, and a Bing Cherry Gastrique was more understated. In fact, if Twitter posts during dinner are any sort of a read, it wasn’t the use of the Texas Pete at all, but the rich Bing Cherry Gastrique that made diners love this plate so much.

While courses 1 and 2 got high points from the crowd, courses 3 and 4 were the highest scoring of the six plates presented this night; and my two personal favorites of the evening, here’s why…

Course 3 from Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington's Restaurant

Course 3 from Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington’s Restaurant

 Course 3 was a beautifully presented Southern “sandwich” of sorts – Comprised of Manchester Farms Southern Fried Quail with Grilled NC Peach and Red Onion Salad and an Ashe County Bleu Cheese Biscuit, the plate was finished with a swirl of Texas Pete® Jus. Honestly Chef Moffett had me at the quail – this tiny breast was perfectly cooked, and along with the soft creamy taste of the blue cheese biscuit, the piquant peach and onion salad and the heat in the Texas Pete au jus,  it was, for me, a sublime blending of taste and texture. I could have eaten several more.

 

Course 4 by Chef Vincent Giancarlo of Cantina 1511

Course 4 by Chef Vincent Giancarlo of Cantina 1511

 Course 4 was another crowd pleaser. In this dish Chef Giancarlo’s Texas Pete® Poached NC Shrimp took center stage and they were packed with flavor. Supporting  the spicy shrimp on the plate, a rather mild Andouille Étouffée and an excellent Caramelized Onion Grits Cake all atop a pool of Ashe County Bleu Cheese Fondue, garnished with a single Chive. Nicely done!

Although no one knew it at the time, up until this point in the battle, the scores that divided the two chefs were very close.  With a mere 8/10ths of a point between the two teams, the battle could have gone either way.

Its the nature in a competition of any kind that some days there will be an upset. Culinary competitions are no exception -sometimes things just go wrong and you try to make the best of it. It happens to everyone despite reputation, credentials or accolades – sometimes soufflés don’t rise, ice creams don’t freeze and custards don’t set; and sometimes the other guy just out cooks you. It is the nature of the beast and  such was the case at the end of this night for Chef Vincent Giancarlo of Cantina 1511 and Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington’s.

Course 5 from Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington's Restaurant

Course 5 from Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington’s Restaurant

Course 5 was Moffett’s  Mexican Texas Pete® Hot Chocolate Custard with Cinnamon Churros, topped with Candied Serrano Chili Pepper. This is the dish that did Moffett in this night.

For whatever reason, the custard didn’t set as it was intended;  so it was presented as more of a thick sauce on the plate, served with two small bits of very tasty cinnamon churros and a quenelle of whipped cream with a sprig of mint; finished with several slices of candied Serrano. While the custard smelled wonderful and  tasted good;  presented in this way, there were too few churros on the plate in comparison; and honestly, it looked a hot mess. Add to that the fact that the candied serranos were more fiery than they were candied and you have a dessert that sadly just didn’t work. Had this custard set into a firm mass and been scooped in a quenelle alongside the whipped cream, the results of the evening might have been very different.

 

Curse 6 by Chef Vincent Giancarlo of Cantina 1511

Course 6 by Chef Vincent Giancarlo of Cantina 1511

Course 6 was Giancarlo’s dessert offering. The Texas Pete® Smoked Tomato Ice Cream was a very creative move for the Cantina team.

But my honest assessment was that the texture was grainy – not smooth and creamy like an ice cream should be. Had I been voting, I would have taken big points off for that, but I must admit, the flavor was good and kept me coming back for more.  My two cents? I think Giancarlo should take a slightly smaller portion of this frozen medley, call it a “frozen salsa” and serve it at Cantina 1511 in the same phyllo shell atop  a slightly peppery bed of mixed greens alongside the Texas Pete shrimp from course four of this competition – a new bar bite , perhaps?

One must, however,  give credit where credit is due; and this night,  served in a crispy phyllo cup, the “ice cream” sat alongside a delicious Texas Pete® Mixed Nut Praline, and a tremendously flavorful Basil Syrup. The crowd loved the innovative effort and the flavor and as a result,  its the dish that gave Giancarlo the lead.

the winners of Battle Texas Pete - Chef Vincent Giancarlo, center, and the team from Cantina 1511

the winners of Battle Texas Pete – Chef Vincent Giancarlo, center, and the team from Cantina 1511 with Cantina owner, Ben Filmalter

Congratulations go out to Chef Vincent Giancarlo and  Team Cantina 1511 who now will go on to the quarter finals to battle Chef Luca Annunziata and Team Passion 8 Bistro on October 8.

For more information about Cantina 1511 with two locations at 1511 East Blvd Charlotte, NC 28203; 704.331.9222; and  7708 Rea Rd Charlotte, NC 28277; 704.752.9797, visit http://cantina15eleven.com/

Battle Texas Pete - 2 004For more information about Barrington’s Restaurant located at 7822 Fairview Road, Charlotte, North Carolina, 28226; 704.364.5755;  visit  http://www.barringtonsrestaurant.com/

For more information about Barrington’s sister restaurant, Good Food on Montford, visit www.goodfoodonmontford.com/

For more information on and recipes for  NC’s own Texas Pete, visit http://www.texaspete.com/

Battle Joyce Farms Naked Chicken Chef Rob Masone, Heist Brewery, Charlotte vs Chef Luca Annunziata, Passion 8 Bistro, Fort Mill, SC. Passion 8 Bistro Takes the Ride into Victory Lane

Chef Rob Masone form Heitz Brewery

Chef Rob Masone from Heist Brewery

Chef Luca Annuziata from Passion 8 Bistro

Chef Luca Annuziata from Passion 8 Bistro

“If you don’t take risks, then maybe there is no reward.”

So said Passion 8 Bistro’s Executive Sous chef. Matthew Krenz after the 7th Competition Dining Battle Monday night Sept 23. It was Battle Joyce Farms Naked Bird Chicken; and that “take risks” attitude is what wowed diners with not one, but two desserts – one from each team of edgy chefs.

Like the four courses that preceded the finale for this evening’s meal, each dessert was made with chicken – who’d of ever thunk it?   More about the end of the meal later, right now lets go back to the beginning.

The teams from Passion 8 Bistro, on the left, and Heitz Brewery on the right with Competition Dining host and creator, Jimmy Crippen; as they learn the secret ingredient for the evening.

The teams from Passion 8 Bistro, on the left, and Heist Brewery on the right with Competition Dining host and creator, Jimmy Crippen; as they learn the secret ingredient for the evening. From left, Chef Matthew Krenz, Chef Evan Micek, Chef Luca Annunziata, Jimmy Crippen, Chef Rob Masone, Chef Dominique Chavez and Chef Bobby Varwick

The competitors for this evening  of Competition Dining’s Fire in the City were Chef Rob Masone from Heist Brewery and Chef Luca Annunziata from Passion 8 Bistro. Both chefs seemed pleased to have chicken as the featured ingredient, but both had obviously planned on the secret ingredient being something else. “We were thinking it would be some weird ingredient, so we were happy about the chicken,” said  Annunziata.

Masone concurred, saying they, too, thought the secret ingredient would be harder to work with;  but the  culinary truth is that sometimes the simplest of ingredients require  the most culinary skill.

Both teams served the secret ingredient well – six plates to make the meal from appetizers to desserts.

but_naked_chickenJoyce Foods “Naked Chicken” is another excellent Got to be NC product, distributed by Competition Dining title sponsor Pate Dawson – Southern Foods.   Based in Winston-Salem. NC with farms across the Piedmont, Joyce Foods heritage breed chickens are raised on small North Carolina farms with  plenty of room for chickens to roam. The company’s trademarked Poulet Rouge breed is a slow growing, naturally raised heritage breed, raised on an all vegetarian diet with no hormones, no growth stimulants, or antibiotics and away from any pesticides; thus the moniker Naked Chicken.

But as tasty as these heritage breed birds are, the fact is that these Competition Dining chefs had only select parts of the chicken with which to work, which made this “easy” ingredient a bit more of a challenge.

Each chef was given about 30 lbs of  what is known in the industry as an airline breast – that is a boneless breast with the drummette wing bone attached; about 30 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and about 20 lbs. of chicken skin. No extra bones, no organ meat, no extra fat – developing intriguing deep flavors without additional parts was going to be tough. But these talented chefs came through in ways you and I would have never imagined.

Course One - Battle Chicken by Chef Rob Masone

Course One – Battle Chicken by Chef Rob Masone

Chef Bobby Varwick makes the tasty pink waffles for the first course

Chef Bobby Varwick makes the tasty pink waffles for the first course

Course 1 was from the Heist Brewery team  “Naked Chicken and Waffles” featured beet waffles, topped with Chocolate & Coffee Chicken Cracklings  and a Sun Drop-Elderberry Syrup.

This dish created a lot of chatter around  the collective dining table as it was presented on the plate on a piece of stone. While the roughly honed stone made for a great visual, it may have been a move that would come back to bite Masone as there were questions about putting something on the plate that wasn’t edible.   For me , the frustration with this dish was that the tasty syrup was on the stone and on the plate under the stone – and so hard to get to and hard to taste. My fellow diners must have agreed, as the result was an unexpected low score for the first plate out from Heitz Brewery.

Course 2 - Battle Chicken from Chef Luca Annunziata

Course 2 – Battle Chicken from Chef Luca Annunziata

Course 2 was a home run out of the box, Passion 8’s  Deconstructed Wood Fired Chicken Salad with Herbs, Pickled Beets, Rutabaga Spiced Walnuts, and a Dried Cherry Vinaigrette; garnished with Shaved Johnston County Country Ham was a crowd pleaser for sure. The chicken was moist and tender with a nice balance of flavor on the plate; and the perfectly cut veggies showed an incredible array of knife skills coming from the kitchen.

Course Three - BattleChicken from Chef Rob Masone

Course Three – Battle Chicken from Chef Rob Masone

Chef Masone and his team from Heist Brewery came back strong with Course 3, an International Sushi that everyone seemed to love.

The addition of chopsticks made it even more fun.  Inside the sushi: Thai Charred Naked Chicken served with Pickled Cabbage & Pancetta,  and a hot and spicy beautifully arranged oval of Raspberry Wasabi on the plate for dipping. Delicious  and left me wanting more.

 

Course 4 - Battle Chicken from Chef Luca Annunziata

Course 4 – Battle Chicken from Chef Luca Annunziata

Perhaps the favorite dish of the evening, and as rumor has it of the competition thus far, was Course 4  of this battle. Passion 8’s Naked Chicken Thigh Mousseline Stuffed with Andouille Sausage; served with a Potato Confit and Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette with Roasted Shiitake-Asparagus Slaw and finished with Shaved Ashe County Romano  was certainly the highest scoring dish of this inaugural Fire in the City’s preliminary rounds and likely the dish that solidified  this win for Chef Annunziata and his team.

Heidi Billotto, left, and Jessica Annunziata, right

Heidi Billotto, left, and Jessica Annunziata, right

As the official blogger of this series of culinary competitions, I eat and blog; but I do not vote, as I have been in the kitchen during the day and have seen what the chefs are up to and know the ingredients with which each team is working.  I do however make a practice of surveying the crowd, questioning fans of each restaurant, as well as mothers, girlfriends and wives of the chefs to see if they have a feel for each course. Shortly after having enjoyed the perfectly prepared chicken mousseline, I chatted with my friend Jessica Annunziata, Chef Luca’s wife, to see if she had a feel for what the guys from Passion 8 were turning out. “I could go either way on some courses,” she admitted. “But this one I know – who else but Luca would do a Mousseline?”

Jessica was right and a well done mousseline at that.

And then came the desserts.

Now, I am not sure that anyone at Joyce Foods or any other NC heritage breed poultry producer ever anticipated raising chickens to serve for dessert; but these chefs felt that a sweet end to the competition was anticipated by the crowd and they aimed to please.

For this food writer and blogger, a chicken dessert is a hard thing to swallow ( pun intended), but Chefs Masone and Annunziata did their best to make  it a palatable finish.

Course Five - Battle Chicken from Chef Rob Masone

Course Five – Battle Chicken from Chef Rob Masone

Chef Masone plates 120 portions of his Battle chicken dessert

Chef Masone plates 120 portions of his Battle Chicken dessert

The first dessert of the evening came from Chef Masone and the team at Heist Brewery – Course 5 was a Half Moon Naked Chicken, with AB Vannoy Country Ham Fire Roasted Apples, Forest Mushrooms Sweet Potato Mascarpone Icing, all topped with Candied Ginger Torched Marshmallow . While the concept was an interesting one I personally thought it to be poorly executed – the marshmallow topping was cloyingly sweet, and  grainy with sugar. For me it was much like eating Thanksgiving dinner all in one bite – poultry, ham, apples, and sweet potatoes with those tiny little marshmallows on top – too much of a good thing.  I would have preferred this ending plate as a starter, perhaps with a pour of Heitz’s lastest Autumn brew, sans the sweet finish on top.

 

Course six - Battle chicken by Chef Luca Annunziata

Course six – Battle Chicken by Chef Luca Annunziata

The second dessert was the evening’s final plate and came in the guise of Course 6 by the Passion 8 team and Chef Annunziata. Chicharones on top of and a line of, Pomegranate Molasses under a Smoked Pistachio Mousse, accented with Cocoa Dusted Parsnip, and garnished with Picked Thyme.

Personally I liked this dessert much better; but then, I am a sucker for fried crispy chicken skin. Playfully called chicharones here, its what my brother and I grew up calling  gribenes and this part of the plate brought me right back to my childhood. Have to say though, that the majority of the sold out crowd packed into the Bonterra dining room for Battle Joyce Foods Naked Chicken did not agree; as this dish, like the dessert from Heist, garnered lower scores than either chef would have liked.

Jimmy Crippen with Chef Luca Annunziata and the team from Passion 8 for an after-the-battle interview.

Jimmy Crippen with Chef Luca Annunziata and the team from Passion 8 for an after-the-battle interview.

Jimmy Crippen interviews Chef Rob Masone on his thoughts after Battle Joyce Foods Naked Chicken was done.

Jimmy Crippen interviews Chef Rob Masone on his thoughts after Battle Joyce Foods Naked Chicken was done.

In the end, scores tallied, it was the team from Passion 8 Bistro that celebrated with  the proverbial chicken dance down Victory Lane.

Both teams worked hard and worked together and certainly had fun in the process. Their efforts were  appreciated by the crowd who had a fabulous time from beginning to end. Kudos to the chefs from both teams for a battle well played.

Chef Luca Annunziata and the team from Passion 8 will go on to the Quarter finals to battle Chef Vincent Giancarlo and the team from Cantina 1511 on October 8.

For more information on Passion 8 Bistro located at 3415 S Carolina Hwy 51 in Fort Mill, SC  29715; 803.802.7455, visit www.passion8bistro.com

For more information on Heist Brewery located at 2909 N Davidson St #200 in  Charlotte, NC  28205; 704.375.8260, visit www.heistbrewery.com

For more information on Joyce Foods Naked Chicken visit www.joycefoods.com

Battle Goat Lady Dairy “Julian” Aged Gouda with Chef Jon Fortes, Mimosa Grill vs Chef Sam Stachon, King’s Kitchen. The sixth battle of the series and Fortes takes the cheese!

Chef Luca Annunziata from Passion 8 Bistro

Chef Luca Annunziata from Passion 8 Bistro

Chef Rob Masone from Heist Brewery

Chef Rob Masone from Heist Brewery

As I write this post it is early morning on Sept 23. Chef Luca Annunziata and his team  from Passion 8 Bistro are preparing to meet  Chef Rob Masone and his team from Heist Brewery on the culinary battlefield that is, for this competition, the kitchen at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room in Charlotte’s historic Dilworth neighborhood.

The Kitchen at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room

The Kitchen at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room

Chefs will meet around 11 am or so to get a feel for the lay of land in the kitchen, check out the mobile pantry full of excellent product and produce from title sponsors Pate Dawson – Southern Foods; and put together their individual strategies. Around noon they  will find out the secret ingeredient for this Battle 7 of the inaugural  Fire in the City competition dining series.

As the competition’s official blogger,  I’ll be there to cover all the action  – during the day today and again during dinner tonight

The Official Blog of Fire in the Coty

The Official Blog of Fire in the Coty

Follow me on Twitter @HeidiCooks and on the Heidi Billotto Cooks Facebook page throughout the day today for updates; and then I’ll meet you back here with the play by play and photos in  the comprehensive post tomorrow morning.

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North Carolina's own Goat Lady Dairy aged Gouda goat cheese

North Carolina’s own Goat Lady Dairy aged Gouda goat cheese

But first, time for a recap on Battle 6 held just over a week ago. On the table – the secret ingredient, goat cheese, local goat cheese from Climax NC; Goat Lady Dairy “Julien” gouda, to be more exact.

Just six dinners in and this food writer is running out of superlatives – somehow the words “wonderful” and “fabulous” just don’t seem enough to describe the Sept 11 evening of Competition Dining, although the evening was every bit of that and more.

Chef Jon Fortes and the team from Mimosa Grill

Chef Jon Fortes and the team from Mimosa Grill

Chef Sam Stachon and the team from King's Kitchen

Chef Sam Stachon and the team from King’s Kitchen

In the kitchen battling it out – Chef Jon Fortes, Executive Chef of Mimosa Grill with his team and  Chef Sam Stachon, Executive Chef of The King’s Kitchen with his team.

As is the case with nearly all of these dinners, the day was fun-filled from the very beginning. These two chefs met through Competition Dining, but hit it off from the get go.

“We both wanted the win,” said Sam Stachon of The King’s Kitchen. “But pretty much from the beginning, it was like we were all working together in our own place.”  It’s this good nature of friendly competition that makes these Fire in the City integrated dining events so much fun.

Sam Stachon , left and Jon Fortes enjoyed the competition and working with each other from the beginning

Sam Stachon , left and Jon Fortes enjoyed the competition and working with each other from the beginning

John "JD" Duncan and  Charlotte Fire Fighters

John “JD” Duncan and Charlotte Fire Fighters

Captain Rob Brisley and the Charlotte Fire Fighters enjoyed and every course

Captain Rob Brisley and the Charlotte Fire Fighters enjoyed and every course

As it was Sept 11, it was a special night. Early on, weeks before the battle, Chef John Fortes told me he thought the historic date would yield a smaller than usual dining audience; but no, this night played to a sold out crowd.

Host, and Competition Dining founder and creator Jimmy Crippen started the evening off with his video presentation as always; but this night included a special tribute to 9/11 with a moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by The Charlie Daniels Band.

To make it even more moving, John “JD” Duncan, owner at Bonterra played host to his neighborhood fire station, as he does each and every year since the 9/11 tragedy. Captain Rob Brisley of the CFD was there too, and delivered the fire safety message that has become the mantra of Competition Dining – The leading cause of home fires and burn injuries is cooking; so Keep your kitchen safe and make reservations to dine out at your favorite Charlotte restaurant!

The dinner was delicious – here’s the plate by plate , play by play…

The first course by Chef Jon Fortes

The first course by Chef Jon Fortes

My plate at the end of  the First Course

My plate at the end of the First Course

Course 1 set the tone of the evening for me – this “cheese plate” with  a trio of offerings was, as it turned out, from Chef Jon Fortes and included  “Goat Lady Julian Cheese Trio” Bacon Wrapped Julian with Port Wine Reduction; Goat Lady Biscuit with Heirloom Tomato & Chorizo Soup; and Whipped Cheesecake with Brown Butter Pine Nuts and Country Ham

The Second Course by Chef Sam Stachon

The Second Course by Chef Sam Stachon

In Course 2, Chef Sam Stachon took advantage of a product that had been the secret ingredient just nights before – the very delicious A.B.Vannoy Country Ham  and did it proud, serving it with  Fingerling Potato Hash, Pepperonata,  all topped off with a Goat Lady Julian Frico

The third course by Chef Jon Fortes

The third course by Chef Jon Fortes

Course 3 was the highest scoring course of the evening. Chef Jon Fortes’ Goat Lady Julian & Parsnip Gnocchi, Creamed Sweet Corn, Tasso Ham, Mushroom Conserva

 

The Fourth Course by Chef Sam Stachon

The Fourth Course by Chef Sam Stachon

Course 4 Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale Braised Manchester Farms Quail Warm Julian Cheese & Farro Salad with Charred Cabbage – while the cheese and faro salad was extraordinary, the quail and cabbage didn’t hold their weight and consequently, this was Chef Stachon’s weakest course and may have been what finally decided the battle

The Fifth Course by Chef Jon Fortes

The Fifth Course by Chef Jon Fortes

Gotta love cheese grits and in Course 5, Chef Jon Fortes brought it with Confit Cheshire Pork Roulade, Goat Lady Julian Grits Soufflé, Dried Apples, Smoked Blueberries

 

The Sixth Course from Chef Sam Stachon

The Sixth Course from Chef Sam Stachon

A high scoring Course 6 in the guise of a melt-in-your-mouth dessert was a hit for Chef Sam Stachon and the team from King’s Kitchen. On the plate – Julian Cheese & Apple Tart with  Mascarpone Chantilly Spiced Caramel Sauce  – a delicious end to an excellent an most memorable evening!

Chef Jon Fortes, Center with Harpers' Group's Steve Seitz, left and Tom Sasser, right

Chef Jon Fortes, Center with Harpers’ Group’s Steve Seitz, left and Tom Sasser, right

Chef Jon Fortes and his team from the Harper’s Group Mimosa Grill will now go on to compete in the quarter-final battle on October 7 against Chef Brian Mottola and the team from e2 Emeril’s Eatery.

Tickets are sold out so, live vicariously and follow this blog for the bite-to-bite action on the dinner and the day of the battle

For more information about Mimosa Grill located at 327 S Tryon St  Charlotte, NC 28202;   704.343.0700; visit www.harpersgroup.com/mimosa.asp Mimosa Grill on Urbanspoon

For more information about King’s Kitchen located at  129 W Trade St  Charlotte, NC 28202;  704.375.1990; visit www.kingskitchen.org/ The King's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

goat lady dairy

Our Friends at Goat Lady Dairy

For more information on Goat Lady Dairy Goat Cheese in Climax NC, visit www.goatladydairy.com/

For a great video on Competition Dining’s Fire in the  City check out the  video coverage that aired a week or so ago on WCNC’s  Charlotte Today – reporter Davyee Sutton was at the A.B. Vannoy County Ham Battle and got an insiders look on all the action! Thanks Davyee!!

Eat Local – Cook Local – Tempura Okra “Fries” with Homemade Ketchup Recipes by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

9-12-13 Charlotte today tempura okra and AZN fusion 026Once a month I have the great good fortune to appear in a cooking segment on WCNC’s midday program, Charlotte Today. Hosts Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway have become good friends as has the staff and crew of this locally produced midday show and I always enjoy the time I spend on set.

9-12-13 Charlotte today tempura okra and AZN fusion 001I work  hard each month to cook locally and seasonally; and my September episode was no exception.

Just picked local okra and tomatoes from New Town Farms in Waxhaw could have given way to many wonderful late summer/early fall dishes; but today I decided to dip and fry the okra in an easy tempura batter and use the tomatoes to make my own ketchup!

You can tweak the ketchup recipe however you like, substituting local honey or agave for  the organic sugar I used.

I like to add just a bit more red wine vinegar than I originally called for in the recipe as I like my ketchup more on the vinegary side – I also used my own homemade red wine vinegar – but that’s a story and a recipe for another day.

Meantime feel free to spice up the original recipe with red pepper flakes, fresh or dried minced chilies, red lobo adobo, chipotle or chili powder or my own, Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend – all available from my friends at the Savory Spice Shop on South Blvd. in Charlotte’s historic SouthEnd at the Atherton Mill – 2000 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203  Phone:  980.225.5419

My favorite Tomato Powder from Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd Charlotte

My favorite Tomato Powder from Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd Charlotte with a quarter up bowl of my homemade red wine vinegar

The tomato powder I used in the recipe came from the Savory Spice Shop as well, and is probably one of my favorite products there – try some to enrich the flavor  and acidity of your homemade ketchup and you’ll never use canned tomato paste again.

The tempura batter is an easy 1-2-3 recipe but you can spice it up with the addition of salt and pepper, chili powder, granulated garlic, finely minced onion or chive or Za’atar ( a combination of dried thyme, sesame seeds and citrusy dried ground sumac) as I did in the  segment with Colleen. Or you can make the batter Gluten free by omitting the flour and blending together corn meal and corn starch for the base of your batter instead.  Use any type of sparkling liquid to make the batter – sparkling water, sparkling cider, or even beer, Prosecco or Champagne! Take note , though, gingerale or sparkling clear oft drinks will make the batter too sweet.

Heidi Bilotto and Colleen Odegaard cook on the set of WCNC's Charlotte Today

Heidi Bilotto and Colleen Odegaard cook on the set of WCNC’s Charlotte Today

Both of my recipes are printed below – click here for the link to the video

Tempura Okra Spears With Homemade Ketchup

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

 10-12  local okra, cut into halves or  quarters, lengthwise

2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup cornstarch
3 cups unflavored sparkling water
Sea salt and pepper to taste – make it spicier to taste with the addition of chili power, adobo seasononing and cumin!

whick together the self rising flour, cornstarcha nd za'atar to get rid of any lumps in the dry mix.

Whisk together the self rising flour, cornstarch and za’atar to get rid of any lumps in the dry mix before adding the sparkling water.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and cornstarch. Add sparkling water and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Toss cut okra in additional flour just to cover.

Heat vegetable oil in a large heavy bottomed pot using the wooden spoon test to judge readiness. – put a cold dry wooden spoon in the pan of cold oil. heat the oild up and as it becomes hot enough to deep fry in , little bubbles will form around the piece of wood just as they would around a pices of food. When bubles surround the edge of your wooden spoon, you know the oil is hot enough for deep frying.

deep fry the batter dipped okra until the coating turns a golden brown

deep fry the batter dipped okra until the coating turns a golden brown

Dip floured okra in batter, one at a time, allowing excess batter to drain off. Carefully place dipped okra pieces in oil and cook until golden brown.

Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate or wire rack to drain.

Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper while still warm.

Repeat dipping and frying with remaining okra – eat and enjoy immediately.

From Scratch Ketchup

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billott0

3 lbs. firm but ripe local tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 cups sugar

8 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes

combine the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat

Combine the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat

Allow tomatoes to cook down ,stirring occasionally, untilt he mix becomes thick. Adjust seasoning to suit your tastes. Puree the ketchup if you would like.

Allow tomatoes to cook down, stirring occasionally, until the mix becomes thick. Adjust seasoning to suit your tastes. Puree the ketchup if you would like or leave it chunky like a chutney!.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir regularly until the mix reaches a thick sticky consistency. Puree with a food processor or immersion blender. Adjust seasonings to taste. Keep refrigerated.

Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg of New Town Farms

Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg of New Town Farms

For more from New Town Farm join me for a fall On  the Farm Cooking class at New Town on Saturday, October 26 from 11 am – 4 pm

So happy to be cooking once again with my good friends, local farmers Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg.  The first time I toured the property at New Town Farms I told Sammy that if I lived there I would never leave – its a gorgeous piece of land I know you will love as well.  This class begins in the kitchen as we prepare a menu of recipes featuring New Town’s  chicken and eggs in addition to all that is ripe and ready to pick in  the field. After we cook – and eat and drink – we’ll enjoy a walking farm tour with our gracious hosts where we will meet the pasture raised chickens and heritage breed  pigs and  learn about the ins and outs of farming acres of wonderful produce.  Sammy will share with us his philosophy of farming and sustainability and the importance of knowing how what we eat is grown and is raised.  Its more than just a farm tour and cooking class – it’s an event that will change the way you think about where your food comes from.

Cost is $75 email Heidi to make your advance reservations

Battle Old Mill of Guilford Stone Ground Grits with Chef David Bettendorf, River’s Edge at the US National White Water Center vs Chef Brian Mottola from e2 Emerils Eatery. Mottola takes the win by less than one -half point!

The star of the evening, Old Mill of Guilford Stone Ground Grits

The star of the evening, Old Mill of Guilford Stone Ground Grits

Wowza! Tuesday Sept 10 marked a wild ride in the Competition Dining kitchen at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room on Cleveland Ave.  This night the six obligatory courses – three from each chef – revolved around the use of a very Southern North Carolina ingredient – white and yellow stone ground grits from Old Mill Of Guilford Stone Ground Grits.

So okay , you say,  thats easy peasy, right – cheese grits, shrimp and grits, grits and grillades – three dishes, done!

Not for these two very talented. very energetic chefs and their culinary teams all eager to strut their stuff. For Competition-dinner goers  this night, grits were transformed into pasta, sushi, and more!

First lets meet the players and then we’ll check out their take on cooking with local grits.

Chef David Bettendorf, left, and the team from River's edge

Chef David Bettendorf, left, and the team from River’s Edge

Chef brian Mottola and the team from e2

Chef Brian Mottola, center, and the team from e2

Battle grits matched the cooking styles and technique of Executive Chef David Bettendorf and his team from River’s Edge, the restaurant and catering services at the US National White Water Center with   Executive Chef Brian Mottola and his team from e2 Emerils Eatery.

I came into the kitchen late in the day, but both chefs seemed pleased with what they had planned for the evening and thrilled that grits were the secret ingredient.

Chef Brian Mottola  was moving fast but said he was happy with the way the day had gone. “Once I got my first course done and settled, things were good, ” He told me when I peeped my head in the kitchen about a hour before service to check in on things.

Course 1 NC Yellow Corn Grits Pasta, Hoppyum Braised Cheshire Pork Belly Poached Egg, Duck Cracklin Bread Crumbs by Chef Brian Mottola

Course 1 NC Yellow Corn Grits Pasta, Hoppyum Braised Cheshire Pork Belly Poached Egg, Duck Cracklin Bread Crumbs by Chef Brian Mottola

I really had no idea what he meant, but later on into the evening he explained  to the crowd that he decided to make pasta with the grits. Good plan, however, stone ground grits are too course for pasta,  he had to grind them down in a small grinder until he had enough to make pasta for 100! A project which, as it turned out, took him three hours of his six hour prep time. A gutsy move but one that worked and on top of it all he served the pasta with poached eggs – hard to do on such a large quantity of plates that all have to go out at the same time.

Southern Sushi, Poached Cabbage Filled White Grits Country Ham Mirin & Wasabi, Pickled Jicama Slaw, Wasabi Crème Fraiche, Wonton Crisps  By Chef David Bettendorf

Southern Sushi, Poached Cabbage Filled White Grits Country Ham Mirin & Wasabi, Pickled Jicama Slaw, Wasabi Crème Fraiche, Wonton Crisps By Chef David Bettendorf

“We had tentative plans to use grits anyway,” shared Chef Bettendorf, “so this worked out perfectly!”

While I loved the first course of pasta, the second dish of the evening – Bettendorf’s first plate-  was my absolute favorite – I don’t know if this was in David Bettendorf’s tentative plan, but I am glad his Southern Sushi concept with  made it to the plate! It was a  solid dish with an excellent balance of acidity  and cream – who would have thunk it? –  eating grits with chopsticks!

As you can see, both of these chefs came in with a “no guts, no glory” attitude. They each brought their A games as is evident in the miniscule point spread between the two at the end of the battle.

As it turned out the pasta – my other favorite plate of the evening was Mottola’s lowest scoring dish – While he had me at the soft poached eggs, I  think the  runny eggs may have not been the crowd pleaser he had assumed;  but in the end his other plates scored just high enough to take the win.

“It was a good battle and to tell you the truth, if it had not been for Chef David’s help my first course might not have all made it on the plate,”  Mottola said, when Competition Dining creator Jimmy Crippen asked him about working side by side in the kitchen with the team from River’s Edge.

Bettendorf expressed the same feelings saying that these competitions are a great way to test your limits, share your strengths and get to know other top chefs in the area.

Now that I’ve hit on my favorite plates – here is the rundown on the other four courses of the evening…

Course three from Chef Mottola

Course three from Chef Mottola

For Course 3 , service was back in the hands of Chef Mottola. A delicious Truffle Beurre Fondue Poached Lobster served nestled beside a Mascarpone Yellow Corn Grits Cake Radish, with Asparagus and a bit of Heirloom Tomato Salad

 

Course Four from Chef David Bettendorf

Course Four from Chef David Bettendorf

Course 4 from Chef David Bettendorf was comprised of a nicely cut filet of Roasted NC Flounder,  with a Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Yellow Grits Cake, a Citrus Demi-Glace, tiny little Cipollini Onion Rings,  and a sweet and spicy Heirloom Tomato Chutney

 

Course Five from Chef Brian Mottola

Course Five from Chef Brian Mottola

Course 5 from Chef Brian Mottola, was a tightly wrapped Boudin Grits Stuffed Quail, with a tasty Muscadine Glaze Puree, and crunchy Parsnip Chip

 

Course six from Chef David Bettendorf

Course six from Chef David Bettendorf

Course 6 was our only dessert of the evening – Chef David Bettendorf presented a small Yellow Grits and Mascarpone Sicilian Cake with side of  Smoked Cherries  and  a Grape Nehi Glace with  Honey Mascarpone, and Almond Brittle. The  smoked cherries took me by surprise at first but in the end, mixed with the Grape Nehi Glace and the honey Mascarpone, they were  the perfect end to the meal.

Next Chef Brian Mottola and the e2 team will battle the winner of  tonight’s battle between Sam Stachon of The King’s Kitchen vs Chef Jon Fortes from Mimosa Grill in the quarter finals on October 7.

For more information on E2 Emerils Eatery, 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts #100  Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 414-4787, visit www.e2emerils.com

For more information on River’s Edge 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy, Charlotte, NC 28214, visit www.usnwc.org

Battle A. B. Vannoy Hams with Chef Brent Martin from The Peculiar Rabbit and Chef Tom Dyrness from Upstream Seafood. Martin edged Dyrness by just over 1 point!

Last night’s Battle A. B. Vannoy Country Hams was a close one.  It came down to the scoring of the last dish before it was clear that Chef Brent Martin from The Peculiar Rabbit would take this win.

The team from The Peculiar Rabbitt

The team from The Peculiar Rabbit

Cooking for team Peculiar Rabbit along with Chef Martin, were Chefs Geoff Bragg and Andrew Melton; cooking for team Upstream Seafood was Chef Tom Dyrness with Chefs Sean Anderson and Brian Williams. 

The team from Upstream Seafood

The team from Upstream Seafood

I was there for the noon welcome to the chefs and the presentation of the  secret ingredient.

Prior to that, chefs had already some time to look around the kitchen at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, a neutral ground and beautiful “battlefield” for each of these Fire in the City Competition Dining dinners.  The chefs were given time to explore the mobile pantry, provided by the Competition’s title sponsor Pate Dawson – Southern Foods and  stocked full of fresh and shelf stable items with which to cook. They also were encouraged to  take inventory of ingredients and equipment and get a feel for the set up.

I asked chefs for any first impressions of the day – they were all excited, ready to begin and eagerly anticipating the presentation of the secret ingredient. ” It will either be pure joy or shear terror,” said Chef Williams from team Upstream Seafood.

As Competition Dining creator, Jimmy Crippen announced that the secret ingredient this day was Country Ham, all six chefs on both of the teams  looked  pleased. Chef Brent Martin from Peculiar Rabbit told me he was happy, but that the idea of including  country ham in each dish, had thrown his dessert idea out the window – “But, we’ll regroup,” he told me. And regroup they did – more about that in a bit.

Nancy Jordon in t he Curing room with country hams from A.B. Vannoy Hams

Nancy Jordon in t he Curing room with country hams from A.B. Vannoy Hams

from left - Byron Jordon, Tom Dyrness, Nancy Jordon and Brent Martin

from left – Byron Jordon, Tom Dyrness, Nancy Jordon and Brent Martin

A Ham so good, it’ll….

It is no wonder that the chefs were pleased with the secret ingredient. Cured and distributed from A.B. Vannoy in West Jefferson, NC, these hams are slow-cured to insure a quality product. Each ham is hand rubbed with what owners Byron and Nancy Jordon deem to be just the right blend of salt and  brown sugar  then  are hung on racks to complete a 9-month curing process.   Unlike other country hams  there are no chemicals, preservatives, nitrates, or nitrites involved in the process at all. Just salt, brown sugar, fresh mountain air and time.

Gotta love it!  And Rick Stapleton, VP and General Manager – Greensboro for Pate Dawson – Southern Foods does! What does Rick think of this particular Secret Ingredient?

Heidi Billotto, official blogger for Fire in the City, with Pate Dawson-Southern Foods' Rick Stapleton and Bryon and Nancy Jordon ( seated.

Heidi Billotto, official blogger for Fire in the City, with Pate Dawson-Southern Foods’ Rick Stapleton and Bryon and Nancy Jordon ( seated)

I tweeted this quote  out last night during dinner, but in case you missed it, Rick says, ” This country ham is so good, it’ll make your tongue slap your brains out!”

Maybe, Rick; but as good as each individual NC grown product turned secret ingredient is – it is what the competing chefs do with the product that matters in these culinary battles.

Each of the six chefs from The Peculiar Rabbit and Upstream seafood worked the line to get everything plated and out to 120 hungry diners.

Each of the six chefs from The Peculiar Rabbit and Upstream seafood worked the line to get everything plated and out to 120 hungry diners.

This group of six chefs worked hard to bring out the nuances of the ham and make it work with a combination of good-tasting ingredients.

If your singular country ham experience has been on a biscuit for breakfast – you are in for a wild ride as you read the descriptives below. Each bite of each dish was full of flavor and while some dishes highlighted the ham more than others, each dish enjoyed high scores.

While chef teams prepped and cooked individually during the fast moving 6 hours prior to the dinner, they all helped each other plate and serve 120 hungry diners who enjoyed each innovative course.

While it is a competition, its also a time for chefs to work together and get to know each other. Of course, everyone wants the win, but  it’s nice to know that these chefs do have fun in the process.

Davyee Sutton from WCNC-TV covering all the action

Dayvee Sutton from WCNC-TV covering all the action

And the crowd had fun too – while everyone in attendance get to vote, there are a group of three professional judges invited each evening  and  their vote is slightly weighted. Among the “Pro” judges this night were Owner and Executive Chef of Zebra Restaurant, Chef Jim Alexander;  Linda Seligman of Charlotte Epicurean Magazine and Craig Utt of Axis Marketing. All were impressed with the venue, the concept and the culinary results.

WCNC-TV’s Dayvee Sutton was also on hand with photographer Matt taping all the action for a spot to run later this week or next on WCNC’s midday program, Charlotte Today.

Plates Please Collective Palates

Tom Dyrness' Low Country Ham Boil, Corn-Andouille-Shrimp & Country Ham Broth

Tom Dyrness’ Low Country Ham Boil, Corn-Andouille-Shrimp & Country Ham Broth

The evening started with a light and delicious plate from Team Upstream seafood and chef Tom Dyrness –  the broth was quite flavorful and while it was a simple presentation, the ham wrapped shrimp sealed the flavor deal for me.

Course 1 Low Country Ham Boil, Corn-Andouille-Shrimp & Country Ham Broth

Hoppyum BBQ Shrimp, Country Ham Corn Pudding, Chili Oil, Curled Chives from Chef Brent Martin

Hoppyum BBQ Shrimp, Country Ham Corn Pudding, Chili Oil, Curled Chives from Chef Brent Martin

Course 2 – Interestingly this was also a shrimp and corn creation but this time by Chef Brent Martin and the Peculiar Rabbit team, The dish was comprised of  Hoppyum BBQ Shrimp atop Country Ham Corn Pudding with  Chili Oil and fun Curled Chives. This dish garnered high marks from the judges and the crowd both in taste and presentation and with that melt-in-your-mouth Country Ham Corn Pudding its no wonder – more please!

Palmetto Quail & Country Ham Roulade  with a NC White BBQ Sauce and a puree of Apple & Rutabaga

Palmetto Quail & Country Ham Roulade with a NC White BBQ Sauce and a puree of Apple & Rutabaga

Course 3 was from Chef Tom Dyrness and was the other high scoring plate of the evening  and another of this food writer’s faves-  a clever Palmetto Quail and  Country Ham Roulade sat front and center on the plate atop of round of braised leek. The roulade was finished with a NC White BBQ Sauce alongside a puree of Apple & Rutabaga – intricate, innovative and delicious, too!

Lusty Monk Cheshire Pork Belly, Country Ham-Fig-Walnut Crust,  Golden Tomato Relish, Beet Broth, Chive Oil, Rutabaga Puree

Lusty Monk Cheshire Pork Belly, Country Ham-Fig-Walnut Crust, Golden Tomato Relish, Beet Broth, Chive Oil, Rutabaga Puree

Course 4 from Chef Brent Martin – A Lusty Monk Cheshire Pork Belly, Country Ham-Fig-Walnut Crust,  Golden Tomato Relish, Beet Broth, Chive Oil, Rutabaga Puree. Honestly, too much on this plate for me and the tang of the mustard overpowered the taste of the country ham.  While the dish scored well, it was Martin’s lowest scoring plate of the evening.

.

…And then there were desserts! Yes desserts, each made with  the A.B. Vannoy Country Ham. Nancy and Bryon Jordon were blown away  with these two incarnations of their hand rubbed and slow cured pork and so was  everyone else! 

Salty Chocolate Pavè, Oatmeal Biscuit, Brown Sugar & Country Ham Ice Cream

Salty Chocolate Pavè, Oatmeal Biscuit, Brown Sugar & Country Ham Ice Cream

Course 5 – From Tom Dyrness of Upstream Seafood –  Salty Chocolate Pavè, Oatmeal Biscuit, Brown Sugar & Country Ham Ice Cream –  Yes country ham ice cream…for me it was the mix of sweet and salty that made it all work

 

Apple Mascarpone Semifreddo, Cider Reduction, Blueberry Coulis, Sparkling Cider Jell-O Shot, Candied Country Ham

Apple Mascarpone Semifreddo, Cider Reduction, Blueberry Coulis, Sparkling Cider Jell-O Shot, Candied Country Ham

In Course 6 from Chef Brent Martin – an Apple Mascarpone Semifreddo, Cider Reduction, Blueberry Coulis, Sparkling Cider Jell-O Shot, Candied Country Ham scored just point higher than Dyrness’ dessert and helped him capture the win.  If  you are asking, I think it was the oh, so, clever sparkling cider Jell-O shots that nailed it.

At Evening’s end the win went to Chef Brent Martin  and the team from Peculiar Rabbit. Congrats, Brent!!    They will go on to compete in the quarter finals on October 5 against the team from Wooden Vine.

Ticket Sales and T-Shirts

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

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

As the word is spreading, the tickets for each night are selling fast. Tickets are still available for most of the quarter final rounds and a few other nights as well. To make your reservations and secure a place at the table for more good things to come – visit the NC Competition Dining – Fire in the City page on this blog and click the links to reserve your space. Do it now – you don’t want to miss out!

And in support of the competition by sure to order your own official Competition Dining T-Shirt! These made in NC tees come in two colors and a variety of men’s and women’s sizes.

The Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series is teaming up with TS Designs in Burlington, NC to bring you our 100% North Carolina-born-and-raised apparel. Our shirts are made with TS Designs’ “Cotton of the Carolinas.” The cotton is produced “dirt-to-shirt” right here in the state, and the company supports 500 jobs within a 600-mile radius.

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!

Visit cottonofthecarolinas.com to trace the supply chain and meet fellow North Carolinians behind all nine steps of the manufacturing process, from growing to ginning to dying.

We are all a community of chefs, farmers, or diners. Support your neighbors and wear the shirt!

For more information on The Peculiar Rabbit located at 1212 Pecan Ave in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, 704.333.9197, visit www.ThePeculiarRabbit.com

For more information on Upstream Seafood located at 6902 Phillips Pl Ct., 704.556.7730, visit http://www.harpersgroup.com/upstream.asp

For more information on those delicious slow cured country hams – visit www.abvannoyhams.com

Battle Scott Farms Sweet Potatoes with Chef Nicolas Daniels, The Wooden Vine vs Chef Paul Ketterhagen, Carpe Diem Restaurant – Nicolas Daniels Wins By < 1 Point!

Chef Nicolas Daniels from The Wood Vine Bar & Bistro

Chef Nicolas Daniels from The Wood Vine Bar & Bistro

The place was packed. The third evening of Competition Dining in Charlotte  took place at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room located at 1829 Cleveland Avenue @ East Worthington Ave. and played to a sold out crowd. The competitors this evening? Chef Nicolas Daniels from The Wooden Vine Bar & Bistro in Uptown Charlotte and Chef Paul Ketterhagen from Carpe Diem Restaurant and Caterers in the Elizabeth neighborhood.

Chef Paul Ketterhagen from Carpe Diem Restaurant and Caterers

Chef Paul Ketterhagen from Carpe Diem Restaurant and Caterers

Enthusiastic fans of both teams filled the tables and there was a flurry of excitement in the crowd from the start. Fans of each chef said they would know which plates came from each culinary team; but, as is often the case in these blind tastings, people who think they know have been wrong. Wives have been wrong, parents have been wrong and fans have been wrong. It was fun to watch it all unfold.

agriculture%20(stacked)The secret ingredient this night –  Scott Farms Sweet Potatoes. Like each secret ingredient in every Competition Dining dinner, these are NC sweet potatoes distributed by Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, the title sponsor of the Competition Dining Series and the largest independently owned distribution company in the state. Pate Dawson – Southern Foods specializes  in local product and supports the “Goodness Grows in North Carolina” program,  the official marketing program for the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service.

Sweet-Potato-StackScott Farms is a 3rd generation family farm. They have been farming near Lucama in southwestern Wilson County in North Carolina since before the Civil War. Originally a small family farm growing  tobacco; Scott Farms now boasts over 5000 acres with 1,900 acres of  sweet potatoes, 1,100 acres of tobacco, 2,000 acres of soybeans, and a small amount of wheat. The farm grows six different varities of sweet potatoes and has sweet potato curing and processing buildings on site. They distribute North Carolina sweet potatoes across the state, the country, in the UK and throughout Europe!

The chefs seemed excited about the prospect of what they would create with this secret ingredient.  The truth is a starch  gives chefs a lot of leeway and offers the potential for a lot of creative license – indeed,  the food this evening was quite innovative.

The precursor to the first course was the wonderful aroma of rich sweet potatoes that wafted into the dining room from the kitchen as chefs began to plate  – a delightful way to start…

Paul Ketterhagen's Sweet Potato Soup with Cinnamon Brown Sugar Crème Fraiche & Toasted Graham Cracker

Course 1 from Paul Ketterhagen

Sweet Potato Soup from Chef Ketterhagen was the first course. Topped with a  Cinnamon Brown Sugar Crème Fraiche and a sprinkling of Toasted Graham Crackers.  I took the dish as a sophisticated play on sweet potato casserole – only better!

Ketterhagen’s overall score for this dish was 16.5

Course 2 from Chef Daniels

Course 2 from Chef Daniels

Next a  Sweet Potato Dumpling from Chef Daniels stuffed with Roasted Candied Sweet Potato  and a House-made ricotta. The dumpling was served alongside a Papaya Salad and Pickled NC Shrimp all placed atop a vibrant Blood Orange Gel.  I loved all the parts, but for me,  it was a lot going  on for one plate. The gel wasn’t set, so the texture wasn’t what I think the chef had intended. It was actually quite liquid, like a thin under coating of sauce; and my table quipped that  it would also have been great in a shot glass with a bit of vodka!

Daniels’ overall score for this dish was 18.1

Courses three and four were hearty entrée plates and each equally delicious

Course 3 from Chef Ketterhagen

Course 3 from Chef Ketterhagen

From Chef Ketterhagen, the house very much enjoyed a sliced   Porcini Roasted Lamb Loin with Sweet Potato (from Scratch) Cavatelli, Smoked Oyster Mushrooms, Pistachios and  Sweet Potato Broth

Ketterhagen’s overall score for this plate was 22.4

Course 4 from Chef Daniels

Course 4 from Chef Daniels

Braised Cheshire Pork Belly and  Seared Maple Leaf Farms Duck were the proteins on Chef Daniel’s entrée plate; but for me and my table at least, it was the  Sweet Potato & Sage Spaetzle, with Smoked Collards and  Pot Liquor Sauce that caught our collective eye and kept us savoring each and every forkful.  As one of the diners at  my table said, “The spaetzle and greens just light up the plate!”  Agreed. The duck, also excellent,  was of melt in your mouth proportions. Daniels’ lower score here was reflected, I believe, in the fact that the  pork belly was fried not braised, and for most of us, sadly overdone.

Daniels overall score for this plate – an 18.4

And then there were desserts –  one might think sweet potato pie, perhaps; but no, these chefs were much more avant-garde than that….chefs in the competition are certainly not required to make dessert, but speaking for the crowd – we were all glad they did!

Course 5 from Chef Paul Ketterhagen

Course 5 from Chef Paul Ketterhagen

The first of two dessert plates came from Chef Ketterhagen and is team – a rich, creamy Sweet Potato & Ginger Custard,  with crispy Sweet Potato Gaufrettes on top and a delightful Bourbon Anglaise, with a Muscadine Gastrique under it all. While the flavors were top-notch, it appeared that the custard didn’t really have enough time to set.  I suspect the cooler had been open and closed so many times through the day that it may not have been as cool as these guys would have liked –  my guess is, it’s the same reason the blood orange gel in Daniels first plate never set.  It  was that lack of texture in this dessert that may have  taken team Carpe Diem down.

Ketterhagen’s overall score for his last plate was 16.5

 

Course six from Chef Daniels of Wooden Vine bar & Bistro

Course six from Chef Daniels of Wooden Vine bar & Bistro

Our last course of the evening, a  “Country Cobbler” of Sweet Potato Sponge Cake, Pecan Cinnamon Struesel, Muscadine-Summer Berry Cobbler and Triple C Smoked Amber Ice Cream goes to show you the ups and downs in competition-style cooking.

During the “after-the-dinner” interviews, Daniels explained to the crowd that just hours before service began, the original batch of streusel topping had burnt. It was trashed and the team had to start all over again.

Hard to say if it was the streusel, the delicious sweet potato sponge cake, the tart berry cobbler and the smoked Amber ice cream or the well-balanced combination of all of these flavors, but in the end this was the dish that gave Daniels and his team from Wooden Vine the edge and the victory.

Daniels overall score for this dish was  21.9

As this evening’s competition was so close, I thought you’d like to see the scoring breakdown of each dish.. The professional judges ( The Pros) combined score accounts for 30 % of the final total while the rest of us ( the Regular Joes) account for 70%.

Contestant         Voter Avg. Score   Pros Avg. Score   Final Weighted Avg. Score
Nicolas Daniels 21.179 15.667 19.52558140
Paul Ketterhagen 19.432 16.444 18.53571429

Now Daniels and his team from Wooden Vine Bar & Bistro will go on to the semi-final rounds to compete in the  October 1 competition against the winner of Monday night’s Fire in the City.

nc comp diningWith this first week of Competition Dining under our belt, know that ticket sales for the remaining dinners are going fast.  the finale on October 21 is already sold out, as is the dinner  between Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington’s vs Chef Vincent Giancarlo from Cantina 1511 on Sept 24.   Don’t miss out – make your reservations for next week and the weeks to come by visiting the Fire in the City page on this blog and following the reservation links.

For more information about Wooden Vine Bar & Bistro,  231 N Tryon St.; 704.376.8463 – visit www.thewoodenvine.com

For more information about Carpe Diem Restaurant and Caterers, 1535 Elizabeth Ave., 704.377.7976 – visit www.carpediemrestaurant.com

Battle Uncle Scott’s Root Beer – Chef David Lucarelli from The Cowfish vs Chef David Moore from Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne. Moore takes the win!

Chefs David Lucarelli and David Moore with Suzanne and Scott Ramsey makers of Uncle Scott's Rootbeer i

Chefs David Lucarelli and David Moore with Suzanne and Scott Ramsey makers of Uncle Scott’s Rootbeer in Mooresville, NC

It was another fabulous evening of Competition Dining last night, Wednesday Sept 4, at the Bonterra Dining & Wine Room in Charlotte’s historic Dilworth neighborhood, with two very talented chefs and their culinary teams battling it out head to head, spoon to spoon.. It was Battle Uncle Scott’s Root Beer with Chef David Lucarelli from The Cowfish vs Chef David Moore from Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne.

 
Each of the six courses were as beautiful to look at as they were delicious to eat. There was not a bad or misthought plate in the line up; but in the end the victorious team simply brought out  and accentuated more of the nuances and flavor of this locally brewed and bottled root beer from Mooresville NC.
 
Enjoy the selection of wines and beers from Juice Wine Purveyors and Triple C Brewing at each Fire in the City dinner.

Enjoy the selection of wines and beers from Juice Wine Purveyors and Triple C Brewing at each Fire in the City dinner.

As is the case with each of the Competition Dining dinners, the evening started with a selection of wines from Juice Wine Purveyors and local beers from Charlotte’s own Triple C Brewing at the Bonterra bar. At each dinner Juice offers a four different wines by the glass and 4 wines by the bottle, each  specially selected for each dinner thru the series; while the beer guys at Triple C offer a trio of local beers each night this week. Guests may also order anything from the Bonterra bar or award winning wine list.

While the action in the kitchen had been going on all day – it was around 7 pm that guests were seated and the game of Competition Dining was ready to begin.   As creator Jimmy Crippen likes to say at the start of each dinner, “The sun is setting, its time to light the fire!”

This second fire of the Fire in the City series was a tremendous battle between two very talented chefs and their culinary teams. Each took a different approach, but both thought the Uncle Scott’s Root Beer was a difficult product with which to work.

 
The Competition Dining team from The Cowfish

The Competition Dining team from The Cowfish

“The flavor profile was a challenging one, and it first it through us for a loop” noted Chef Lucarelli from The Cowfish. “With all of its aromatic flavors it was a hard product to find ways to  incorporate into a trio of dishes.”

David Moore and the team from Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne Resort

David Moore and the team from Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne Resort

Chef Moore agreed taking the approach to bring out some of those unique flavors and highlight them using the  variety of proteins and produce available to both chefs from the Competition Dining mobile pantry.

 

After 6 1/2 hours of fast and furious prep time and menu planning, the dinner that insued was delicious.  While the diners each evening do know what the secret ingredient is before they start eating, they don’t know which chef prepared each plate and so they vote blind on taste, aroma, texture and the best use and flavor of the secret ingredient.

 
First Course from Chef David Lucarelli at The Cowfish

First Course from Chef David Lucarelli at The Cowfish

The first plate of the night was as it turned out from Chef Lucarelli and the Cowfish team –  Grilled NC Shrimp, Asian Pear, Jicama Salad, Piperade & Uncle Scott’s Root Beer Balsamic Gastrique .

The shrimp on this plate were perfectly cooked and pear and jicama salad a refreshing foil to start; and  Lucarelli’s piperade here was spot on.

 
Course 2 from Chef David Moore of Gallery Restaurant

Course 2 from Chef David Moore of Gallery Restaurant

The second plate was from Chef Moore and the team at Gallery restaurant. Toasted Uncle Scott’s Root Beer Spiced Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast, Muscadine & Cubanelle Pepper Root Beer Aspic. As  I had been in early and saw what the chefs were making, I was not voting this evening;  but I will say, as I did on my Twitter feed – @HeidiCooks –  last night , while I loved the tender duck on this dish -it was the root beer aspic that totally blew me away  and the crunchy toasty bits of root beer –  amazing!

Just  a touch of these two intensely flavored items rested on top of the duck, but the flavor was deep, warm and rich    –  this plate was perhaps my personal favorite of the night.

 
 
Course Three from Chef David Lucarelli

Course Three from Chef David Lucarelli

The third plate of the evening was again from Chef Lucarelli and interestingly  featured tasty tender  duck as well –  Uncle Scott’s Duck, Root Beer Glazed Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast, Sweet Potato Quinoa Risotto, Fried Leek, Tart Cherry Demi.

On this plate the duck was glazed with a reduced rootbeer, roasted and then thin sliced and with tart cheery demi was for me a winning combination of flavor as well as a  great blend of texture and taste.
 
Course Four from Chef David Moore

Course Four from Chef David Moore

The fourth plate of the dinner was from Chef Moore and the Gallery Restaurant team. Black Garlic Root Beer Confit Cheshire Pork Belly, Uncle Scott’s Root Beer Braised Yucca Root, Ashe County Redneck Romano Galette, Root Beer, Caramelized Pink Lady Apple & Shallot Jam

It was an excellent plate, but funny to say, what I personally like the best on this plate didn’t have anything to do with the root beer – it was the small crunchy cheese galette  that caught my eye and my tastebuds.

 
 
As soon as I knew the secret ingredient was root beer I also knew the evening had potential for some fabulous desserts – while I at first was secretly praying for some sort of cool deconstructed rootbeer float, both chefs far surpassed my hopes and expectations.
 
Course Five from chef David Lucarelli

Course Five from chef David Lucarelli

From Chef David Lucarelli, the 5th plate – a melt in your mouth bowl of Fig and Goat Cheese Homemade Ice Cream, Fried Wontons, Uncle Scott’s Root Beer Syrup. Ice cream for 100 guests, all served at the same time is an ambitious endeavor to say the least, but The Cowfish team pulled it off with scrumptious results.

 
 
 
Course six from Chef David Moore

Course six from Chef David Moore

The sixth plate, a dessert from Chef David Moore – Uncle Scott’s Root Beer Ganache, Mousse & Glacè, Root Cherry Marmalade. This plate was a sophisticated presentation of flavors that each played one off the other for a perfect finish.

Jimmy Cripppens interviews the battles winning team for a video to post on the Competition Dining website

Jimmy Cripppens interviews the battles winning team for a video to post on the Competition Dining website

In the end, after votes were locked in and tallied, it was Chef David Moore and his team from the Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne who took the win.

David and his team will go on the battle again in the semi final round against Chef Phil Barnes and his team from Rooster’s  in the first round of Fire in the City  semi finals on Sept 30 – get your tickets now; they will sell out fast!

For more information on The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar visit – www.Thecowfish.com

For more information on Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne Resort visit – www.gallery-restaurant.com

For more information on Uncle Scott’s All Natural Root Beer visit  – http://unclescottsrootbeer.com

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Battle Certified Angus Beef Strip Loin puts Phil Barnes from Rooster’s, Charlotte head to head with David Sullivan, Fish Market, Fort Mill – Barnes Takes The Victory!

Last night was the inaugural evening of Charlotte’s Fire in the City series of Competition Dining . While guests were excited for the evening to begin, not many of those in attendance really knew what to expect of the evening; but the Bonterra Dining room was filled to near capacity nonetheless and you could feel the anticipation in the air.

The crowd for the inaugural Fire in the City competition started to gather early at the Bonterra Bar

The crowd for the inaugural Fire in the City competition started to gather early at the Bonterra Bar

Enthusiastic guests starting arriving early to enjoy Bonterra’s charming bar before the culinary battle began.

Juice Distributors, the official wine sponsor of Competition Dining NC, presented a tasty selection of wines both from the glass or bottle; and of course the award wining wine and liquor selection behind the Bonterra bar was also available for Competition Dinner diners to order and enjoy.

Working the crowd, I ran into several familiar faces, each excited and anxious about the evening to come. Some were dedicated fans of each of the participating chefs or restaurants; others just came for the fun of it all. Fun is a huge part of the Competition Dining series – in fact its the first rule for chefs and patrons. In surveying the crowd throughout the evening I would say “mission accomplished” for this the kick off dinner of the Queen City series.

Also in attendance were representatives from several Competition Dining sponsors such as Pate Dawson Southern Foods and Swisher

Hygene.On the list of invited guests were three culinary professionals who took the role of the official judges ( The Pros) for the evening – Chef Fred Tiess from Johnson & Wales; Chef David Quintana from Southminster and Chef Lewis Donald from Providence Country Club.

Chef  Fred Tiess, left; Bonterra's, John "JD" Duncan and Chef  Lewis Donald from Providence Country Club

Chef Fred Tiess, left; Bonterra’s, John “JD” Duncan and Chef Lewis Donald from Providence Country Club

Special media and celebrity guests this inaugural evening included Cat Harris from Edible Charlotte Magazine and WBTV’s own Kristen Miranda and Kelly Franson.

Guest Judge Chef David Quintana, right with friend Chef Kris Reid

Guest Judge Chef David Quintana, right with friend Chef Kris Reid

While everyone in attendance at a Competition Dining dinner is a judge and votes via a fun smart phone app on each dish, the voting Is weighted with the three professional judges – “The Pros” carrying 30% of the final score on each plate; while the rest of us – “The regular Joes” votes go to 70% of each score.

The idea is to vote seriously on taste, texture, aroma, presentations and the use of the secret ingredient in each dish but to have fun with all along the way. While everyone knows what they like and what tastes good or bad, what “The Pros” bring to the table is a knowledge of culinary terms and correct use of technique that the regular Joes may not notice.

Instagram and Competition Dining’s Facebook Page were burning up as guests posted photos of their favorite dishes; and Twitter feeds were all “atweet” with chatter about the dinner as each plate was presented.

WBTV’s Kristen Miranda and Kelly Franson may have been the Queens of Twitter for this evening – posting so many photos that one of Kristen’s WBTV co-workers thought these were dishes she was cooking herself!

Competition Dining Creator Jimmy Crippen, center, with WBTV's Kristen Mirando and Kelly Franson

Competition Dining Creator Jimmy Crippen, center, with WBTV’s Kristen Mirando and Kelly Franson

The six different courses presented during the evening all revolve around a secret ingredient, revealed to chefs at noon, and to dinners in a video presentation as soon as everyone is seated.

The fun of the evening is that while you know which chefs are preparing the meal, you don’t know what you’ll be eating until it is presented and you don’t know who prepared each dish until the meal is done. But its always fun to guess… As I chatted with eager guests before the big reveal, I inquired as to any speculation on what the secret “Got to be NC” ingredient this night might be?

Conjectures included sweet potato, trout, oysters, okra, dairy and produce – “Of course it wouldn’t be a protein,” one person said… Or could it?

Last night, if you were asking yourself, “Where’s the beef?” then you were obviously not in attendance at this, the first Fire in the City dinner. The secret ingredient this night was indeed a protein – Certified Angus Beef , a cut of Strip Loin to be more exact.

Chef Phil Barnes from Roosters South Park prepping beets for his fist course

Chef Phil Barnes from Roosters South Park prepping beets for his fist course

Chef David "Sully" Sullivan works with the evening's secret ingredient - Certified Angus Beef Strip Loin

Chef David “Sully” Sullivan works with the evening’s secret ingredient – Certified Angus Beef Strip Loin

I was on hand early in the day as chefs prepped and fine-tuned menus and asked about the chefs first impressions – David Sully of Fish Market Grill in Ft. Mill was excited at the prospect – ” We may be a seafood restaurant, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do steak – I come from a steakhouse background, so this is great!”

Chef Phil Barnes from the Roosters South Park location seemed a bit more surprised. ‘ I didn’t know what to expect, but I just wasn’t thinking it would be a protein.”

Phil also thought there might be two secret ingredients as it often the case in Competition Dining. But what struck Phil the most was the selection of pantry ingredients the chefs had to choose from – the discovery was a happy surprise – “There are a lot more choices than I thought and its all vey high quality – we’re excited to see what the day and night will bring.”

The “pantry” for each evening of competition dining is a large refrigerated truck now settled in at home in the Bonterra parking lot. the first section of the truck is dry pantry space and the behind a door is the refrigerated space. The truck is loaded and monitored by two of Competition Dining’s “Chef Refs. ” These same two chefs present the secret ingredient to the chefs early in the day; collect the chefs menus by the 3 pm deadline and decide the order in which competing chefs dishes will be presented and help to facilitate the action and service in the kitchen. Plan to read more about the Chef Refs in an upcoming post.

The Competition Dining Mobile pantry

The Competition Dining Mobile pantry

Once the secret ingredient was revealed and the chefs introduced, the much anticipated dining began.

What this evening brought was a beefy six-course repast, 6 hardworking chefs and 120 very excited guests. As I informally surveyed the room, by far the favorite two dishes of the evening were the first dish served – Phil Barnes’ steak tartar and David Sullivans’ smoked surf and turf.

Among the dining guests and judges were several professional chefs and almost without exception, these chefs thought their two competing colleagues played it safe.

“There was nothing that was really “out there”,” one chef noted, while another indicated that he had expected more. Perhaps, but this food writer would be doing both culinary teams a big disservice if I were hesitant to point out that’s is much easier to comment from the sidelines, than to be in the heat of the battle.

While dishes may indeed have been safe, they were, for the most part, well executed and much enjoyed.

The biggest caveats noted at our table fell to Sullivan’s Kushikatsu. This breaded and fried thin-cut slice was overcooked; and judges noted, given an incorrect moniker. Kushikatsu is actually a breaded and lightly fried beef kabob, while this presentation was instead comprised of two small slices of breaded beef, still oily from the fryer – more like a poorly executed chicken fried steak.

To my mind, this may have been the dish that brought Sullivan down as all the scored were very close.

Barnes’ presentations were more consistent, but not without a few flaws of their own. Farro risotto was flavorful but undercooked and not as creamy as risotto should be. His creative pho was good and the beef here very tender but ,for some, the broth was overly seasoned with the hot and spicy ginger.

Since I had been in the kitchen earlier, and had an idea of what Barnes and Sullivan were making, I removed myself from the voting this night; but I agreed with the crowd that the tartar was certainly the most interesting dish of the evening. Aside from the fact that it was a gutsy and ( for me) much appreciated move to serve raw beef – this dish had acid and texture – two important factors missing on a lot of the evening’s plates that followed. Sully’s smoked beef dish offered the same balance of both texture and flavor found missing on other courses.

Despite all the little ups and downs, the evening was enjoyed by all, many indicating that while this was their first NC Competition Dining dinner it wouldn’t be their last.

Here us the breakdown of the Battle Certified Angus Beef Strip Loin course by course and the chefs final scores on each dish. Click here for photos of each dish.

Course 1 – Phil Barnes, Rooster’s- Certified Angus Beef® Steak Tartare, Baby Arugula, Pickled Red & Golden Beets, Chili Aioli, Fried Capers score 19.9

Course 2 – David Sullivan, Fish Market Certified Angus Beef® Kushikatsu, Wild Mushroom, Bok Choy, Citrus-Ginger Ponzu score 16.8

Course 3- Phil Barnes, Rooster’s Certified Angus Beef® Wood Grilled Strip, Farro Risotto, Cipollini Onion, Oyster Mushrooms, Eggplant Caponata Score 18.0

Course 4 – David Sullivan, Fish Market – Smoked Surf & Turf, Certified Angus Beef® & Shrimp, Fried Yucca, Heirloom Tomato, Arugula & Spinach Salad, Black & Blueberry Chimichurri Score 19.1

Course 5 Pho – Phil Barnes, Rooster’s, Certified Angus Beef® Strip, Collard Greens, Fennel, Smoked Cheshire Pork Belly, Heirloom Tomatoes, Pear & Ginger -Score 18.5

Course 6 – David Sullivan, Fish Market – Porcini Crusted Certified Angus Beef® Medallion, Burgundy Demi, Butter Poached Lobster Claws & Blue Crab, Caramelized Pepper Risotto, Grilled Asparagus Score 16.3