Last night’s Competition Dining Series, “Fire in the Triangle” Battle NC Corn was another great success. The quarter finals are proving the talent of the wonderful chefs competing and that the winning chef can win on as much as one or two votes, as was the case last night.
The competing chefs were John Childers from Herons at The Umstead Hotel and Spa and Serge Falcoz-Vigne from 518 Italian Café. Final scores were close with Childers and Team Herons winning with 72.3% of the votes vs Falcoz-Vigne and Team 518 West with 63.9% of the votes. The voting made for quite the debate at the end of the evening as the popular vote in fact went to 518 West but the pro judges, who’s votes weigh in at 30% of the total vote, pushed Herons over the winning line. For full result details go here.
As usual it was a busy scene in the kitchen, and as I’ve mentioned before the camaraderie between teams is remarkable and it’s not unusual to see both teams helping the each other plate for service.
The first course was a Corn & Lobster Crab Cake with Smoky Corn Chowder,
Corn & Bacon Beignet & Citrus-Ginger Herb Salad by 518 West. I loved the chowder in this dish and the crabcake was moist and not overly bready. The biegnet though just didn’t seem to fit the dish. The judges did not feel like corn was the star in this one and thought there was too much going on on the plate.
Course two was a Roasted Quail with Charred Corn & Blueberry Relish, Sherry Vinegar & Thyme by Team Herons. As far as I am concerned, this was the winning dish of the evening, and the one people were talking about the most. The quail was perfectly cooked and had a mildly sweet flavor complimented by a goat cheese grit cake……oh that grit cake. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, slightly salty, rich and buttery, it was goooooood! The charred corn and blueberry relish was a bright addition to the plate and palate and the sherry vinegar and thyme added the acid needed to cut through the richness of the quail and grit cake. At this point in the game, I would have to say this dish is now one of the best I’ve tasted throughout the competition.
Course three from Team 518 West was a Corn & Pulled Duck Confit
with Corn Succotash, Corn Butter Mashed Potatoes, NC Peaches & Corn Barbeque. I liked this dish very much. The pulled duck confit paired with the mashed potatoes was comfort food at its best and the peach and corn barbeque sauce was delectable. The judges however didn’t feel as though this dish spoke corn to them and was one of the lowest scoring dishes from them.
Course four , a Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Creamed Corn, Turnip Butter, Peach Marmalade & White Balsamic Barbeque Sauce came from Team Herons. First off the tenderloin was cooked to perfection. It was so tender it practically melted in your mouth. The cut though was rather large and I think overshadowed the creamed corn (which was also good). The judges loved the peach marmalade and white balsamic barbeque sauce, but I must admit it was not my favorite, especially having just enjoyed the barbeque sauce on the duck confit dish.
Moving on to dessert, I was excited to see how each chef would utilize corn as the main ingredient. Corn is so versatile and it’s natural sugars perfect for a dessert course.
First up was a Corn Cup Tuille with Whipped Corn Cream, NC Peaches, Blueberries, Corn & Corn Crème Anglaise from Team 518 West. I had watched Chef Facoz-Vinge make the corn cup tuilles earlier in the evening and he had explained what he was planning so I was looking forward to see how this dish would come together. It came together exactly right!!! Brilliant I say, and I think Chefs wife nailed it when she said it was like eating chips and dip, dessert style. I loved everything about this dish. The flavors were well-balanced, the corn was a noticeable ingredient and the corn and corn crème anglaise so good I about licked my bowl clean.
The last dessert, from Team Herons was a Sweet Corn Custard with Cola Caramel, Salted Peanuts & Graham Cracker Crumble. The custard was light and airy (corn definitely came through), the cola caramel a table favorite and the peanuts and graham cracker crumble a nice way to add crunch. This was a great tasting dish, but of the two desserts, I preferred 518 West. The judges however absolutely loved this dish and scored it higher than any other of the evening giving it a score of 95%.
It was a great evening and both teams did an amazing job. Thank you Team Herons and Team 518 West for treating us to a wonderful evening.
Chef John Childers at Fire in the Triangle post-win interview
As we continue on the road to a final winner, please stop back here for daily updates and chef intro’s to each battle.
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
Next up in the series is “Fire in the Triad” August 13 through September 25 in Winston-Salem. For tickets go here.
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.