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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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…
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
For more information about King’s Kitchen located at 129 W Trade St Charlotte, NC 28202; 704.375.1990; visit www.kingskitchen.org/
For more information on Goat Lady Dairy Goat Cheese in Climax NC, visit www.goatladydairy.com/