Battles of Beef and Cheese
After taking a break during Valentine’s week, the Fire on the
Rock Chefs Challenge returned to Crippen’s this week.
The week featured first round matches of Chef Matt Barlowe of the Table at Crestwood versus Chef Guy Thomas of Glidewell’s and Chef Randall Isaacs of the 1861 Farmhouse versus Gina Paolucci of Paolucci’s Italian Bar and Grill.
On Tuesday, chef teams from Glidewell’s and the Table at Crestwood gathered at Crippen’s Country Inn at noon for the revealing of the secret ingredient for that night’s competition. Larry Willard of Southern Foods, one of the primary sponsors of this year’s competition dining series, presented the teams with cuts of certified Angus beef.
Approximately 80 diners participated in that evening’s battle, individually judging six dishes as they were presented one after another. Without knowing which chef team was responsible for which dish, the dining judges and professional judges weighed in on categories, such as appearance, aroma, taste, side dishes and use of secret ingredient.
In the “Battle Beef,” Barlowe and his team’s dishes included culotte steak and flat iron tartare with golden beet chip, lemon and roasted garlic aioli; beef bourgignon with roasted carrots and mushrooms with a red wine au jus; and marinated and grilled flat iron steak and pepper crusted prime top sirloin with thyme-roasted fingerling potatoes and a lingonberry-almond compote.
Thomas and his team countered with Alderwood roasted top sirloin and panko-crusted flat iron cutlets with scampi shrimp, cranberry-pecan polenta and shrimp jus; wood-grilled prime top sirloin and flat iron steak with béarnaise sauce, dried cherry cabernet sauce, buttered asparagus tips and oyster mushroom risotto; and braised top sirloin and blade roast with rutabaga potato puree, bacon, onions, sugar snaps and carrots.
After the dining and judging, Thomas defeated Barlowe by an average score of 65.3 percent to 58.4 percent. Thomas will move on in the single-elimination competition to face Chef Jessica Grogan of Crave in a Fire on the Rock battle on March 6.
“It was a little surprising to be using Angus beef,” Thomas said. “I wanted to make ice cream, but couldn’t with beef.”
Battle Ashe County Cheese
Fire on the Rock’s dedication to promoting North Carolina-produced foods got a little bit closer to home Wednesday as the secret ingredient for that night’s chefs challenge was Ashe County Cheese, with an emphasis on sharp cheddar and creamy Romano.
Chef Randall Isaacs of the 1861 Farmhouse in Valle Crucis created a brocolini and cheddar soup with aged Romano cheese crisp and parsley; a braised pork tenderloin stuffed with Romano cheese with cranberry, lingonberry cabernet cherry sauce, granny smith apple, orange and tart cherry salad; and a two-cheese bread pudding with raisins and prickly pear.
Chef Gina Paolucci countered with Romano polenta Napoleon with roasted jalapeno pepper, bacon, sharp cheddar, grilled shrimp, spring greens and a red wine vinaigrette; pan-seared chicken breast with sweet potato cheddar mashed potatoes, panko-Romano-crusted green beans with a tart Michigan cherry-duck glace; and Romano and cheddar apple turnover with bourbon-cinnamon ice cream.
When the scores were tallied, Paolucci defeated Isaacs by an overall average dish score of 68.2 percent to 61.8 percent.
Paolucci moves on to face Chef James Welch of the Green Park Inn’s Laurel Room on March 7.