Last night was the FIFTH competition dinner of the Fire in the Triad Competition Dining Series. It was truly a Family Affair between Chef Leigh Hesling of Green Valley Grill (and Printworks Bistro) in Greensboro and Chef John Willis of Emerywood Fine Foods in High Point. If you're not familiar, meet them below:
Chef Leigh Hesling of Green Valley Grill
Chef John Willis of Emerywood Fine Foods
Now that you've met the chefs, it's time to meet their families.
I had the fortunate opportunity to dine with Chef John's family last night. We had a lively discussion about food: likes, dislikes, favorite preparations and Chef John, of course! He really has a wonderful family who raised a funny, jovial, talented and well-traveled man. A special shout-out goes to his niece, Grace: Remember--3rd grade is the best ever, in the history of all grades! Have a great school year, sweetie!
|Pictured (left to right): Chef John's sister, niece, mother, father Photo courtesy: Competitiondining.com|
|Conversational piece from the Twitterverse|
The honey was provided by St. Dominic's Honey of Mayodan, NC.
The family of St. Dominic's Honey is pictured below (I told you it was a family affair...)
|First course: Honey Glazed Roasted Shrimp, Pancetta Risotto, Roasted Shrimp Bechamel, Fennel Dust|
In my personal opinion, honey doesn't have much of a discernible flavor unless it's clover honey. My summation: The only way to tell if any of the dishes used the secret ingredient wisely was to taste sweetness or smell the aroma of honey.
|Second course: Pan Seared Breast of Quail, Honey Poached Cherries, Honey-Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette, Fennel-Orange Slaw|
|Third course: Confit Breast of Chicken, Honey-Bacon Braised Collard Greens, Smoked White Cheddar Polenta, Honey Balsamic Gastrique, Bing Cherry Chutney|
|Time to plate the food: it's a family affair in the kitchen, too. The Kitchen/Chef Family.|
|Fourth course: Honey Mocha Glazed Breast of Duck, Honey-Blackberry Duck Jus, Smoked Mushroom Farro, Beet Cappelini with Crumbled Chevre|
And magic happened. The duck was so beautiful and tender. I couldn't taste any mocha, but I didn't care. The honey transferred expertly to this dish. Perfectly pink and not an inedible layer of fat to be found. The duck jus mixed with the mushroom farro and the crumbled chevre (goat cheese) in a true symphony of good flavor. I didn't want this course to end. I ate it as slowly as possible, almost making the waiter clank this dish's bowl with the next, because I wasn't fast enough.
The fifth and sixth courses are the ones that either put a chef over the top or make him/her barely squeak by. There was barely a ONE point difference between the overall score of both dishes. The night's judges (providing 30% of overall score): John Batchelor, food critic of Greensboro News & Record and blogger Amanda Clark of Cuisine & Seen.
|John Batchelor... or is it?|
|Fifth course: Lemon Basil Honey Sorbet Intermezzo with Crystallized Mint, Blackberry Honey Couverture Chocolate Truffles|
Good note: This was the first time during the competition that mint was used as a edible garnish and not just for color.
Bad note: this mint was dry and like crunching on a fall leaf from a tree.
Lastly, I had issue with the chocolate truffles: two of the three were rolled in nuts (I believe crushed walnuts) and that ingredient wasn't listed and I am allergic to nuts (tree and ground). The one truffle I was able to eat was smooth and creamy (as couverture chocolate is supposed to be, due to a high ratio of cocoa butter), but it didn't look very appetizing. It was not uniform in shape and reminded me of brown Play-Doh.
|Sixth course: Petite Honey Butter Cakes, Vanilla Honey Mousse, Honey-Pomegranate Butter Cream, Pinenut Brittle, Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce|
A word about buttercream: it's made of butter (obviously) and sometimes stabilized with margarine, shortening, or lard. The latter three ingredients don't melt in your mouth like butter does and for that reason, I don't care for creams made with them.
I understand that restaurant kitchens are hot and butter melts, but the buttercream here didn't have much flavor. The mousse on the inside of the cake was more like buttercream and not very flavorful either. The cake looked moist, but it was dry and a little heavy. The sweetness of the honey was pronounced in every element presented, but this dessert was not my favorite. The judges enjoyed this dessert better the the last (scoring: 66% vs 56%) but diners enjoyed Course 5 more (scoring: 72%).
When all was said and done and the winner of Battle Honey was Chef Leigh Hesling of Green Valley Grill! Congratulations, Chef! For a breakdown of scores and dishes, please visit Competition Dining.
All food photos courtesy of Competitiondining.com/Click on each to enlarge