The competition is heating up – that’s the Got To Be NC Competition Dining, of course, and as of this spring time post, NC favorite culinary sport is well on it way into is 2014 season. With Fire on the Dock on the NC coast and Fire in the Rock in the Boone, Blowing Rock, Asheville area now over and decided, the Fire in the Triad series is now in the semi final stage. Next up, Fire in the Triangle and then its Charlotte’s turn at Fire in the City.
If you have followed this blog from its inception, you will know that in 2013 I was named the Official Blogger for the 2013 Fire in the City Competition Dining series. This year the competition comes to Charlotte for another much anticipated season; so anticipated, in fact, that even though the competing chefs and brackets have yet to be named, ticket sales are already brisk.
Charlotte’s Fire in the City takes place starting August 18 – Sept 29, and I have a special deal for you at the end of this post for $10 off each ticket, so you’ll have to act quickly – but more about that later – for now you don’t have to wait to join in all the fun.
As many of you know since the beginning of the Greensboro – Winston-Salem – High Point, Fire in the Triad series, I have been working for my friend Jimmy Crippen and Competition Dining, handling social media, coming up with fun promotions and helping to be a liason between the competition, chefs, diners, local ingredients and more telling the story all along the way. In the Triad I have had the pleasure of meeting many talented chefs and their families, and have been happy to tell their stories.
This week marks the semi finals of the Triad Fire, down to the wire, last night and tonight May 27 and 28 will determine which two triad chefs go to the final battle on Monday June 2 which will determine the Fire in the Triad champion.
Last night the heat was on in the first semi final battle between two culinary talents found in Chef Tim Thompson from Marisol Restaurant in Greensboro and Chef Mark Grohman from Meridian Restaurant in Winston-Salem. These two stand up guys and their teams had great fun during the day but all the while took the task of preparing six courses for 140+ guests quite seriously.
As with all Competition Dining battles, this one revolved around two signature North Carolina ingredients – Pepsi and peanuts! The tradition, now a fun bar trick, of putting peanuts in a bottle of glass of Pepsi started on local NC farms – the farm help couldn’t carry a glass or bottle and a bite to eat and still have all hands on deck to do the work; so they combined the snack and beverage and at the end of each row, took a swig to get a drink and something to munch on at the same time. Today its a fun combination of sweet and salty that remains a crowd pleaser!
The evening was full of excitement and in the end it was chef Tim Thompson and his team from Greensboro’s Marisol Restaurant that took the win. Chefs each had a large box of shelled peanuts from the American Peanut Co. in North Carolina and 2 1/2 gallons of Pepsi syrup with which to work.
To my mind, the most successful savory courses this evening, I thought, cleverly added spice of Sambal and a local NC Sriracha called Cha! produced by the makers of Texas Pete. The hot and spice counteracted the sweet in the savory courses and then chefs played up the peanut and Pepsi combo in dessert. Here are some shots of the behind the scene action during the day, the final dishes with a bit of my editorial in the descriptives and more…
COURSE 1 by Chef Tim Thompson and team Marisol was one of Marisol’s highest scoring plates of the evening right out of the shoot. It was comprised of a Heritage Farms Pork tenderloin, rubbed with Lusty Monk mustard, local honey, roasted garlic fresh rosemary and Dijon mustard; then served with a wasabi aioli, a ginger-Pepsi red cabbage slaw, a peanut-sambal Puree, and a swirl of Pepsi “Liquer”
Chef Mark Grohman and the team from Meridian offered COURSE 2 a Pepsi braised Cheshire Farm pork butt, wrapped in Swiss chard and served with a, Potato- Peanut Gratin, Grilled Brocollini, and Texas Pete Cha!-Pepsi Reduction
COURSE 3 went back the Chef Tim Thompson and team Marisol. the focus on the plate was a very successful peanut – panko crusted Veal Milanese with a Coffee-Bacon-Brown Sugar-Pepsi Veal Stock Reduction and a side of Dijon Garlic Mash potatoes, and Micro Greens dressed with a honey sherry vinegar and a whole grain mustard emulsion
COURSE 4 from Chef Mark Grohman and team Meridian cam as a Bacon Wrapped roulade of veal stuffed with a clever shiitake and peanut Duxelle and served with a sweet potato apple puree, delicious caramelized onion Brussels sprouts, and a blueberry Pepsi® reduction
And then the chefs wowed the crowd’s collective sweet tooth with desserts….
In COURSE 5, team Marisol offered Pepsi Cheesecake, with a peanut graham cracker crust, a side of salted caramel ice cream, and a Pepsi infused chocolate sauce
And finally in COURSE 6 every enjoyed a step back to their childhood – or perhaps their last camping trip – with Meridian’s take on the classic S’more… this time made with roasted peanuts, a Bruleed Pepsi Marshmallow, Dark Chocolate, and hand crafted peanut brittle
If you are in the Winston-Salem or Greensboro area you should definitely make reservations at both Meridian and Marisol and see just what Chefs Mark Grohman and Tim Thompson and their talented teams do on a regular basis when they are not in the throws of competition.
Meanwhile – here are some backstage shots of Marisol and Meridian chefs at work enjoying North Carolina’s newest culinary sport of Competition Dining…
Finally got Chef Tim Thompson to look up from peeling potatoes and give the camera a smile!
Team Marisol in action during prep – Wayne Atkins in the back making the cheesecake, Tim Thompson center and Marvin Merida making strawberry flowers
All of the chefs from semi final teams Marisol and Meridian after the battle with Pate Dawson – Southern Foods chef refs, Laurence Willard and Billy Seay, center and Chef Laura from The Elm Center, Painted Plate Catering
and now for the special offer for Fire in the City Tickets….
As A Thank You for reading this blog post by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto, we would like to offer you the unique opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to a dinner or dinners at North Carolina’s newest Culinary Sport
Competition Dining’s Fire in the City
Preliminary Dinners take place August 18 – September 3
Quarter Finals Semi Finals and Final Fire held September 8 – 29
All dinners will take place at Bonterra Restaurant on Worthington Ave. in Charlotte, but reservations must be made online
Competing chefs will be announced in early August – check this link for details – http://www.competitiondining.com/events/fire-in-the-city or follow Heidi on Facebook at Heidi Billotto or Heidi Billotto Cooks or on Twitter at @HeidiCooks or subscribe to this blog.
In the meantime, to receive $10 off the purchase of any preliminary round ticket, make your purchases before midnight on May 31 using the following links
To make reservations for any of the Fire in the Triangle Competition Dining battles in Raleigh visit, the Fire in the Triangle page of the Competition Dining website
To make reservations for any of Charlotte’s Fire in the City in Charlotte quarter finals, semi finals or Final Fire visit, the Fire in the City page of the Competition Dining website