Round three of Fire in the Triad brought us another Greensboro Vs Winston-Salem battle. The rivalry of Tobacco Road is the most notorious battle in the state (and probably the sports world) but the real battle is in the other trinity of the state, between the county seats of Guilford and Forsyth counties.
Southern Lights Vs Meridian
Meet Chef John Wheeler of Southern Lights Bistro in Greensboro
Meet Chef Mark Grohlman of Meridian in Winston-Salem
The night's secret ingredient...
The variety of watermelons used: Melody Seedless and Sugar Baby. Watermelon is one of my least favorite foods. It's not on my DO NOT EAT list, but: I don't do watermelon. I appreciate it for what it is (a crisp, juicy member of the melon family that has texture ranging from smooth to slightly grainy and flavor ranging from sweet to slightly bitter) but contrary to popular belief, I do not like watermelon. I dislike it so much, I did not participate in the night's voting.
|First course: Chilled Sugar Baby and Basil Consommé with a Watermelon Cube,|
Alderwood Smoked Salt and Spiced Shrimp.
Speaking of judges, we were joined by local food writer and PR professional, Carroll Leggett and Kim Alexander of Triangle Localista. Their scores accounted for 30% of the overall score for night.
|Second course: Spiced Lobster and Quinoa Salad with Red Onions, Roasted Almond
Watermelon Vanilla Vinaigrette, Watermelon Champagne Broth, Crispy
Photo courtesy: competitiondining.com
The next course was the tastier of the first two courses and the diner's voting palate agreed with a high vote of 68%. I love quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and lobster and having them together in one composed dish was pleasing to me. The quinoa was simply sprouted and there were some un-sprouted granules in the bottom on the plate that I thought were poppy seeds. I'm still not sure what the lobster was spiced with, as I didn't taste any spice, but the lobster was sweet and succulent.
Anything with pancetta makes it better. In this case, the salty piece of meat was just a tasty piece of garnish that didn't match with the rest of the salad. I didn't taste much watermelon flavor between the broth and the vinaigrette and that is probably why this dish scored lower than the first with the judges.
|Third course: Watermelon Glazed Manchester Farms Quail with Grilled Herbed Polenta Cake,|
Port Soaked Sultana-Pickled Watermelon Rind Relish
Photo courtesy: competitiondining.com
|Fourth course: Pan Seared Pink Peppercorn Rubbed Breast of Duck, Pickled Watermelon
Potato Trio-Goat Cheese-Fig-Watermelon Mousse Au Gratin, Pistachio-White Wine Béchamel
There was so much going on, I didn't know where to start. One of the best parts about duck breast is the result of crispy skin when it's cooked. The duck was cooked well, but there was no crispy skin on this. The pickled watermelon rind was too vinegary and tart and a little unpleasant to eat. The potato (sweet, white and purple) au gratin was not executed well. The potatoes were just barely cooked but the mousse was delicious. Nearly anything whipped with goat cheese is tasty. BUT--I couldn't taste any prevailing watermelon flavors. The bechamel... well... I tasted it for the sake of this blog post, but I will only say that it tasted most like my Galloping Gourmet Failure of 1985.
|Watermelon-Champagne Granita with Mint & Toasted Pignoli Brittle|
|Sixth course: Balsamic & Sugar Glazed Watermelon & Cantaloupe, Banana &
Strawberry Onion Compote, Roasted Watermelon-Jalapeno Coulis
Another dish with a lot going on. This time, I knew where to start first: the brûlée. And then I wished I'd saved a little of it for the rest of the dish. The strawberry onion compote was a little tart but the balsamic and watermelon saved it. I didn't care for the coulis, but all of the flavors and textures in this dish worked. The judges and diners total score marked this course a full 10% higher than the last and I understand why.
For a side-by-side comparison of each course and the scoring break down, visit Competition Dining's website here.
With a total score of nearly 67%, the winner of Battle Watermelon: Chef John Wheeler of Southern Lights Bistro! He and his team were responsible for courses two, four and six. Chef Mark Grohlman of Meridian and his team were responsible for courses one, three and five.
Thank you to both chefs for making me believe in watermelon again. I won't be picking one up at the farmer's market, but I have a semi new-found appreciation for it.
Stay tuned next week for the SOLD OUT August 20 battle between Greensboro's Chef George C. Neal of 1618 West Seafood AND Winston-Salem's Chef Tim Grandinetti of Spring House!