Last Wednesday was another great night of Fire in the Triangle. Battling it our “Iron Chef” style were Chef Serge Falcoz-Vigne of 518 West Italian Cafe vs Chef Reto Von Weissenfluh (try saying that three times fast).
The secret ingredient was announced by NC Dining Competition founder and host Jimmy Crippen and Battle Cataloupe was off.
Course 1 was a Cantaloupe Mousse with Tasso Ham, Chive, Cantaloupe Gazpacho, Poppadam & Cantaloupe Poached Shrimp (Falcoz-Vigne) and Bacon Wrapped Cantaloupe & Goat Cheese Mousse with Balsamic Reduction (von Weissenfluh).
Both dishes got an A for creativity and presentation, but fell short of our expectations. While the gazpacho was excellent, we all agreed that overall there were too many components giving a overachieved quality to the dish.
Course 2 had all the right elements (bacon-need I say more), but lacked in the cantaloupe department. We all agreed the mousse needed more of the secret ingredient to stand up to the sizeable piece of bacon. Overall the dish was good though and had my table mates not had to judge for cantaloupe, it would have ranked higher.
Moving onto the next courses, and move you go, there is no stopping the plates leaving the kitchen. They are a well oiled machine back there and NC Competition Dining kitchen ref Chef Laurence has a speed and precision along with a sense of humor that keeps things fun but moving along.
Course 3 was a Cantaloupe Crabcake with Grilled Bok Choy, Cantaloupe Crème Fraiche & Melon Glazed Shrimp (von Weissenfluh) and was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. You definitely got cantaloupe in the crabcake and the melon shrimp cooked perfectly. This dish got mixed reviews however. When I spoke to other guests, it was a 50/50 split between those that loved it and those that didn’t.
Course 4 was Braised Pork Tenderloin with Adobo & Cantaloupe Jus, Celery Root Slaw, Forbidden Black Rice, Cantaloupe Risotto & Fried Melon Skins (Falcoz-Vigne). This dish had all the right components but sadly the rice was not entirely cooked and as one person said “half of it should really have been forbidden,’ there was just too much of it. The pork however was very good and a welcome protein.
It was finally time for dessert and both chefs pulled out all the stops. First up was a Lime Gateau Roule with Cantaloupe Buttercream, Tequila Anglaise & Grilled Cantaloupe Crescent (Falcoz-Vigne). The cantaloupe buttercream had flecks of lime zest and a sprinkling of sea salt that in my tables opinion made the dish.
Our last dish was just the most perfect of them all, at least for me. It was a Melon & Lychee Sorbet with Fig Compote & Caramel Bowl (von Weissenfluh) and was very light, and a nice end to the evening. The cantaloupe was really prominent in this dish and the caramel bowl genius. It was a work of art both on the plate and to the palate.
Of course at the end of the day, there can only be one winner. Our judges for the evening were Becca Gomez Farrell, author and food blogger at The Gourmez and Amber Nimocks, author and freelance journalist.
The scores were the closest they have been yet with the difference only a few hundredths of a point. The winner? Serge Falcoz-Vinge of 518 West Italian Cafe. For complete results go here.
If there is any one thing I have walked away with having been to a few battles, is there is a wonderful sense of camaraderie between the competing chefs. No matter the winner, both teams of each battle I went to last week celebrated together…true team spirit!!
Fire in the Triad will run August 13 through September 25 in Winston-Salem. For tickets go here.
Triangle location for all dinners: 1705 Prime Catering and Events, the premier private event space for Rocky Top Catering at 1705 East Millbrook Road, Raleigh, NC 27609; http://www.rockytopcatering.com/our-venue/1705prime.php
Special thanks to the NC Competition Dining Series Sponsors, without their support, we would not have the privilege of attending such a series of events here in NC.
SPONSORS: The North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA), Southern Foods/ Pate Dawson, OUR STATE Magazine, Crippen’s Country Inn & Restaurant in Blowing Rock, Whole Harvest Foods and H.ITS Technology. Local sponsors include the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau and Independent Weekly.