About Competition Dining: In 2013, this unique 15-dinner competition dining experience has traveled across the state of North Carolina to Asheville/Blowing Rock (Fire on the Rock), Wilmington (Fire on the Dock) and Greensboro (Fire in the Triad). Raleigh (Fire in the Triangle) and Charlotte (Fire in the City) are slated for later the summer and fall.
Each evening, two restaurants battle it out side by side in a single elimination, blind dinner format. Guests savor a six-course menu (three courses from each chef without knowing whose food you’re tasting) created around a secret North Carolina ingredient. The ingredient is revealed to the chefs at noon the day of their battle and it must be used in each of their three courses.
The first preliminary battle brought together a relative newcomer and a veteran to the scene.
Matthew Culpepper of The Quiet Pint Tavern in Winston-Salem
"My competitive advantage is that I constantly create specials, beer dinners and event menus that are outside of the box." This is Culpepper's first appearance and the restaurant's first appearance in Fire in the Triad. It should be noted that the restaurant opened to fanfare from celebrity chef Brian Duffy of Bar Rescue fame. He designed a menu and was on-hand for opening night of the restaurant. The Quiet Pint is now trying to shed that image and emerge with a new identity.
Tim Thompson of Marisol in Greensboro
"My competitive advantage is that I am local! I grew up in Jamestown, NC. I know North Carolina ingredients, because I know North Carolina."
This is Thompson's 2nd Fire in the Triad appearance. He competed in 2013 during the first sold-out battle of the series season.
While driving down I-40 to the heart of Downtown Greensboro, The Empire Room, I thought I smelled fried chicken in the air. It hit me just as the scent of fresh cut grass smells like spring onions in early April. It was pungent and it was real. I was not imagining things. It was a premonition of delicious things to come during the first battle of Fire in the Triad.
The night's secret ingredients: Joyce Farms Guinea Fowl and Stokes County Purple Sweet Potatoes from Scott Farms.
Joyce Farms is hyper-local, as it's right in our backyard in Winston-Salem. This heritage fowl, is also known as pintade. Purple sweet potatoes have a drier than the orange sweet potatoes we're used to. The flavor is milder as well.
Guest judges and media: Chef David Lucarelli of Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar in Charlotte, Chef Kristina Fuller of Crafted, the Art of the Taco in Greensboro and 2013 Fire in the Triad runner-up, Chef Timothy Bocholis of Bistro B in Kernersville.
Other noted luminaries in the building: Local author and fellow foodie, Jo Maeder, whose new book, Opposites Attack, is available on Amazon; Chris Demm of Two Guys Named Chris on local radio station, Rock 92. I had the pleasure of dining with these folks, two of my very close friends, Kyle Agha and future Fire in the Triad competitor, Donnie of New Town Bistro and Oliver Lowe of Senior Resources of Guilford and the Mobile Meals program. In 2014, Competition Dining's charity partner is Guilford Senior Services. To find out more information about this non-profit organization, go to www.senior-resources-guilford.org.
Course 1: Joyce Farms Pintade-Cheshire Pork sausage-Scott Farms Purple Sweet Potato en croute, sausage pear microgreen-pickled shallot salad, champagne-honey-truffle emulsion
|Presented by Marisol|
This was an absolutely gorgeous first course, as you can see. The second highest scoring dish of the night, the purple sweet potato was grated and crusted on top of the sausage. The sausage was chilled, which I was not fond of, but it had a great mellow flavor that was not overpowering or heavy with spices. The pickled shallots and microgreen salad lightened the dish and reminded you that it is indeed Spring outside, despite having to still wear a coat through most of April. The bow that tied this package together was the champagne-honey-truffle-emulsion. The sauce was light and lilting and oh-so very delicate.
I guessed that this was Chef Thompson's handiwork, because he made a phenomenal sausage for Competition Dining back in 2013.
Course 2: Duck fat poached Pintade, cranberry bean & sweet potato succotash, crispy skin, black garlic aioli and microgreens.
|Presented by Quiet Pint|
This second course was not executed as well as the first. It reminded me of a very elegant casserole, minus the crunchy topping. Unfortunately, I did not get any crispy skin on my plate and I looked for it and tasted around for it. The cranberry beans could have subbed for the topping and the diced sweet potato too, as they were not cooked all the way through. And that being said, I didn't think this part of the dish was really succotash. For my thoughts on succotash, please read this. The black garlic aioli was sharp, like a mustard, and sweet and matched very well with the bits of poached pintade.
Course 3: Pan-seared and roasted pintade, double sweet potato salad with bacon, cherries, almonds, red onion, Cheerwine & chipotle barbecue sauce
Due to my allergy, I was served a simple pan-seared and roasted pintade breast garnished with chopped chives and a drizzle of the Cheerwine & chipotle barbecue sauce. Of all the courses up to this point, this one seemed to be my table's favorite. Creamy orange sweet potatoes and the purple sweet potatoes danced with the rest of the salad ingredients. My chicken skin was crispy on one side (there's my crispy skin!) and the chicken was a little on the dry side. It looked beautiful on the plate though...
Course 4: Smoked pintade, purple sweet potato-Ashe County Romano gnocchi, mushroom nage, fried leeks, asparagus
Even though we were 4 courses in, my mouth actually watered while eating this one. The smoked pintade was very juicy and savory. The skin on top made for a nice little cap to hold in all of the fowl's juice while cooking, I'm sure.
I'm a sucker for gnocchi. This gnocchi is probably the best I've had during Fire in the Triad. The three (or four) on my plate were soft, delicate, plump pillows of purple-y goodness.The fried leeks seemed to be an afterthought, but looked pretty on top. The asparagus were shaved, sliced in half and perfectly tender and crisp. THIS was my favorite dish. I even sopped up the nage (pronounced NAJ) with pieces of bread. In fact, I ate most of the bread in the basket at our table. The nage was that good.
Course 5: Purple sweet potato cream cheese mousse, butter cake crumb topping, honey maple & bourbon glaze, honey tuille
|Presented by Marisol|
Course 6: Purple sweet potato mousse, candied pintade skin, raspberries, pomegranate coulis, Foothills Hoppyum IPA brittle
|Presented by Quiet Pint|
I have to give a slow clap, maybe a two-step and definitely a five-star rating on the plating of this dish. GORGEOUS. And then I had to destroy it with my spoon. More mousse, but not as light and airy and the first. The brittle had disintegrated into bits of floating shards by the time it got to the table. The fresh raspberries played off the pomegranate coulis, but the coulis was marred by the brittle/shards and I did not get any of the bitter notes I love in Foothills' Hoppyum (my favorite NC beer).
Congratulations to winner Chef Tim Thompson and his Marisol team and we'll see you on May 13!
For more information on scoring, photos, social media links and tickets, please visit Competition Dining