There were no Feast day reprieves this week. No devout teacher or someone to give me permission to eat meat. I willingly and freely jumped off the meatless Friday cliff. It was a cooking competition. I was honored to join Team Ace from AceWeekly to judge a cooking competition for the Fifth/Third Fourth Friday at The Lexington Art League. Four of us were on the judging jury: Michael, AceWeekly, Chef Dave, and myself.
We wondered what we should wear. Should we match? Chef Dave and I chose our whites, cheffy speak for white chef coats (mine, black) ; while AceWeekly and Michael were supposed to look fabulous. And. They. Did.
Not knowing what to expect, I was a bit nervous as to how the evening was going to play out. How were we going to sample everything? Would they bring the food to us or would we walk around tasting it. Things like that matter to me. I sweat the little stuff. It was alot of fun, Everyone was very hospitable and very nice. The food was good, too. They sequestered us in the kitchen on a beautiful sunny afternoon. A bright, cheery, and bustling kitchen. People were busy cooking and finishing their dishes.
We sat around a giant center island. Chef Dave and I on opposite ends with Michael and AceWeekly on one side. As they divied up the dixie cups full of competition food, we figured out a scoring system for how we would rate each offering.
Thankfully and luckily, they brought in a vase of wine. Yes, a vase of wine. It was like a carafe, but bulbier, and bigger. The better to hold more wine, I thought.
The food was tasty and ambitious. We may have been super critical because of our foodiac-ness, but we were judging after all. I wish they had the food competitors come into the kitchen and explain the dishes to us because we were left to guess and figure them out as a Team. Kind of like food charades or a food puzzle. There have been episodes on Top Chef when the chefs had to taste ingredients and figure out what they were. Guess the ingredient! That's what we did.
There was a spring-mix salad dressed in a light vinaigrette. It had a meat of some kind in it. Sausage, we thought. I found it to be almost gyro-like in texture, but not gamey like lamb. There were thin pieces dotted about in the salad. It was light and refreshing. There was an avacado and corn salsa with tortilla chips that had alot of potential. It was creamy and smooth with pops of corn throughout. A squeeze of lime or garlic would have pumped it up a bit, but it was good. We enjoyed a hot artichoke dip with bread dippers.. Personally, I love the brown cheesy part that forms around the edges of the casserole dish when an artichoke dip bakes. I think of it as cheese candy. That's what my dixie cup of artichoke dip offered. I loved that!
I also thought the chicken wings were tasty. They were not Buffalo style or crisp fried. They were mellow and very tender with flecks of thinnly sliced parsely sticking to the sauced skin. The tiny parsley shreds were a nice touch of freshness. A diferent take on wings, like bite sized pieces of a Sunday supper.
We enjoyed chili with cheese cornbread, a couple of different kinds of mac & cheese, and barbecued meatballs. The standouts of the evening were the curried shrimp and shrimp and grits. The curried shrimp were bathed in a coconut cream curry sauce with peanuts for a salty crunch and fresh flaked coconut for a gritty sweetness. The shrimp and grits, sauced with sausage, shrimp, peppers, and onions were luscious over creamed cheese grits. I had a bowl for breakfast this morning, thanks to some handy carryout wrapping by AceWeekly and a reminder to go back to the kitchen to retrieve it.
The desserts were very interesting; a not too sweet bundt cake with a fresh pureed raspberry glaze, caramel stuffed brownies, whipped-cream filled tuiles, and caramel fleur de sel ice cream. The tuiles, french wafer-thin laced cookies, were ambitious and exquisite. They would have benefited from an equally matched ambitious filling. That being said, they were beautiful to look at and to eat. The caramel fleur de sel ice cream had a sweet and salty yin-yang element that was very intriquing. A sprinkle of fleur de sel over the top for a diamond glisten and crunch would have taken it to another level. It was very very good.
It was a fun night. Lots of friends came by. The event was a success. The Louden House was packed. and everyone had a great time.
Thanks to the volunteers and staff. Thanks to all the cooks.