Sunday, July 18, 2010

Top Chef 2010

I went to a fundraiser at St. John Medical Center which was a competition between four local chefs: Ellis Cooley, Jonathon Sawyer, Jonathan Bennett and Regan Reik. Actually, it was two competitions since there was a winner by popular vote and a winner by judges vote. One of my favorite food experts, Ted Allen was the host and one of the judges. The other judges were Al "Bubba" Baker and the 2009 winner of the Top Chef event, Brandt Evans. I took pictures of the food because it was mostly pretty and delicious. The descriptions aren't mine but are from the souvenir program.

Terrine of Beets and Lake Erie Creamery Goat Cheese, Beet Gastrique and Beet Paper
Sirloin of Beef Roulade Short Ribs, Corned Beef, Lobster Carrot Puree and Parmigiano
[Not Pictured]
Beets are one of my favorite vegetables and the goat cheese complimented them very well. The beet paper was insanely sweet and crunchy. I'm not sure how I missed taking a picture of the entree. It was hearty and satisfying, but there might have been too many ingredients fighting for attention. The slight sweetness of the corned beef paired well with the naturally sweet puree and the short ribs were more tender and tastier than other beef ribs I've had. The appetizer tied for my favorite of the night and the entree was my second favorite making Chef Cooley the winner of my vote. Sadly, he did not win.

Fois Gras Steamed Clams with Butter, Red Onion Brulee, Late Harvest Viognier Vinegar and Grilled Bread

Ohio Lamb Crepinette with Heirloom Vegetable Ratatouille

Chef Sawyer's clams were my other favorite appetizer of the night. They were perfectly cooked and were not in the least bit chewy, as is often the case with clams. The broth was light but packed with flavor and was oh so good to dip the [not pictured] grilled bread. I *might* have had three servings of the clams. I'm not the biggest fan of the gaminess of lamb, but the crepinette made the best of it. The ratatouille was more of a sauce than a layered side dish, which allowed me to enjoy the entree as a whole since I could use the stewed vegetables to mask the lambiness of the meat. Anyone who enjoys the taste of lamb would have given the dish 4 stars.

Spiced Poach Shrimp, Coarse Gazpacho and Whipped Cilantro

18-Hour Ohio Pork Shoulder, JB's Grits and Spicy Peach Slaw
Chef Bennett's creations won the fan vote, which really surprised me. My shrimp was poached to perfection but didn't have a hint of spice. The gazpacho was more like a bed of thinly sliced vegetables with a slight kick and was only vaguely reminiscent of the taste of gazpacho. It was good, but not great. I would be impressed if a friend served it, but disappointed if I ordered it in a restaurant. The pork was outstanding. It was tender and juicy and was the star of the plate. The grits were a touch too sweet for my taste, and I didn't really like the peach slaw. The fruit tasted pickled and had spices that hid any natural peach flavor. However, I can't say enough good things about the crunchy pork cracklings that were not in the description but made a surprise appearance on my plate. I wouldn't doubt if those pork rinds were what won over the voters.

Forest Mushroom Terrine, Sorrel Ice Cream, Sorrel Coulis and Aged Balsamic Dressing

Copper River Salmon with House-Made Pancetta Wrap, Ohio Strawberry Jam and Mustard Green Pierogi
These plates won the judges vote, which is hardly unexpected since they were by far the most beautiful dishes of the night. The appetizer looked like it would have been bursting with earthly mushroom and sweet leek flavor, but was sadly bland. The liquid-nitrogen made ice cream was cool in more than one way, but unfortunately tasted like sorrel, which is bitter and overpowering. It also stuck to the plate. The entree was my favorite of the night. The sweet-on-sweet combination of salmon and strawberry jam worked so well and the salty goodness of the pancetta was the right accompaniment. And unlike the sorrel in the appetizer, the bitter greens in the pierogi made a great counterpoint to the fish. And the mini-size was too cute. My only complaint were the pin bones in my salmon.

Bonus Pre-Dessert compliments of Chef Sawyer! Peanut Butter Cookie pictured atop Ted Allen's book, "The Food You Want to Eat"

Tiny cupcakes from A Cookie and A Cupcake in Tremont

More tiny cupcakes.
People seemed to like the cupcakes. I tried one chocolate and one yellow. Fairly standard fare.

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