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Grits and Moonshine

By Jeff Eason (

Article Published: May. 2, 2013 | Modified: May. 2, 2013
Grits and Moonshine

From left, Hayden Watson, Sam Ratchford and Sierra Cockerill of Team Vidalia pose in the kitchen with Adam Hayes, Jordan Cruley and Patrick Abernathy of Team Red Stag Grill during Tuesday’s final of the Fire on the Rock Chefs Challenge in Blowing Rock.

Photo by Amanda Lugenbell

When it comes to regional foods, you can’t get much more Southern than grits and moonshine.

So, it was appropriate that those were the secret ingredients in the final dinner in the 2013 Competition Dining Series’ Fire on the Rock Chefs Challenge in Blowing Rock.

Chef Sam Ratchford of Boone’s Vidalia Restaurant and Wine Bar went head-to-head against Chef Adam Hayes of Asheville’s Red Stag Grill in the finals, held at the Meadowbrook Inn in Blowing Rock Tuesday evening. Both chefs and their teams had to come up with three dishes utilizing Old Mill of Guilford Grits and Midnight Moon Moonshine.

In one of the closest Fire on the Rock competitions ever, Hayes defeated Ratchford with a combined weighted score of 75.69 to 75.38.

Ratchford’s dishes included a nori-wrapped coconut tasso ham grits and lobster sushi roll with blueberry moonshine ponzu, strawberry moonshine pickled ginger, Texas Pete shrimp sauce and crispy wontons; rosemary-thyme smoked pork tenderloin with blueberry moonshine barbecue sauce, strawberry moonshine Brussels and snow pea slaw, rapini yellow grit remoulade, and sweet potato grit crouton; and a corn pone grit cupcake with black and blueberry mascarpone frosting, yellow grit pudding, strawberry moonshine ice cream and moonshine coulis.

Hayes countered with a spicy tempura lobster crab roll with grit “rice” and collard green wrap, North Carolina shrimp ceviche, sugar snap-carrot-shitake-cashew salad, blueberry moonshine mirin and annotto chili oil; blueberry moonshine brined venison tenderloin with Southwestern rub, chipotle golden grits with Ashe County Cheese cheddar, crispy broccolini, blueberry moonshine demi and basil-mint chimichurri; and moonshine crispy rice treat with strawberry moonshine panna cotta, sweet grit cream, Guilford grit meringue, moonshine macerated fruits and a blueberry moonshine balsamic glaze.

The highest scoring dish of the evening was Ratchford’s pork tenderloin.

Hayes and his team will move on to the state finals of the Competition Dining Series later this year in Raleigh. They will compete against the winners of the Fire on the Dock, Fire in the Triangle, Fire in the Triad and Fire in the City winners.

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Got restaurant news? Email editor Frank Ruggiero at ( , or call (828) 264-6397.

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