Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wrap Up: Competition Dining

That's a wrap, y'all - at least for the Greensboro series of Got To Be NC Competition Dining! Check out the official press release below to see what you missed - and don't worry, there are battles coming up in Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington that you can get tickets to now before the big Battle of Champions in October! 

Local Chef Team Earns the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series’ Greensboro Title

Team Sedgefield Culinary Crushers from Sedgefield Country Club Takes Home Win, Moves on to
Statewide Championship

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the state’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, has named a winning team for its local Greensboro series. Team Sedgefield Culinary Crushers made up of three chefs from Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, brought home the title. Team Sedgefield Culinary Crushers defeated Team Wiley Pickle Weasels from Greensboro in the final dinner event.

The finale challenged the chef teams to use two featured ingredients, Lady Edison hog and produce harvested from several area farms, including The Edible Schoolyard at the Greensboro Children's Museum. Team Sedgefield Culinary Crushers chefs James Patterson, Issac Spencer and Tim Alston served up the highest scoring dish of the night and won over the crowd’s stomachs with the fifth course. The mouth-watering dessert was a destructed buttermilk pie, which included Ran-Lew Dairy buttermilk mascarpone cream, Bertie County peanut and pork crackling shortbread, passion fruit gastrique, Edible Schoolyard white plums, North Carolina peaches, strawberries and mint. (See complete scores and dishes here.)

“What an experience! We’ve never done anything like this before as a team and it’s very different from what we do every day, so this was a blast challenging ourselves against other culinary professionals,” said Chef Patterson. “I’m so proud of our team, the excitement was noticeable at the club in the weeks leading up to the competition, and my guys brought their “A Game” both nights. It feels amazing to be named the local champions and to move on to compete in the statewide championship this fall.”

As part of the Greensboro series winnings, the team took home $2,000 in cash and prizes, and each member received a handcrafted knife by Ironman Forge, an autographed cookbook by master French baker Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery and the coveted “Red Chef Jacket” provided by ALSCO. Additionally, Team Sedgefield Culinary Crushers will move on to the Battle of Champions statewide finale in October where they will compete against other winners from across North Carolina.

“The Greensboro finale dinner battle was highly competitive with each team taking the lead at different times throughout the night, at one point with only a hundredth of a point difference in scores, ” said Jimmy Crippen, Competition Dining Series founder and host. “The energy in the kitchen was palpable with both teams hard at work creating crowd-pleasing dishes. Ultimately, Team Sedgefield Culinary Crushers stole the show with their dessert course, securing them the big win.”
Every Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series dinner event includes two chef teams battling it out, each preparing three courses centered on a featured North Carolina ingredient that is revealed only an hour before they start cooking that day. Ticketed guests get in on the action, savoring a full-service, six-course meal without knowing which chef prepared which plate. Unlike any other cooking competition, attendees vote on each dish using their smart phone, and ultimately help determine who moves on to the next round and who goes home.

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series now moves on to Raleigh with battles July 11, 12, 14, 18, 19, 21 and a local finale July 24. Additional information and tickets are available at

About The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series
The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, Certified Angus Beef®, Freshness from North Carolina Waters, Joyce Farms, Goodnight Brothers, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, ALSCO, Swisher Hygiene and local and regional partners throughout the state. The goal of the series is to celebrate North Carolina products and agriculture, and to showcase the culinary ingenuity and talent across the state. For more information, visit or get in on the conversation at and @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Got To Be NC Competition Dining: Battle Beets & Trout

Last night's Got To Be NC Competition Dining battle was one of the strongest I have ever been to. The energy in the room was palpable - everyone was delighted with the courses from both teams. When it came time for the scores, we all waited in anticipation to see who would advance to the final battle. But let me start at the beginning...

The Culinary Crushers (from Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro) took on The Natives (from Native Kitchen & Social Pub in Asheville) in one of the closest battles in the history of Competition Dining. We were all twiddling our thumbs, dying to know the secret ingredients. I had been pondering all day! And FINALLY, it was time for them to be revealed.

An obvious pair, no?! Who knew that Sunburst Farms Trout (Waynesville, NC) and The Specialty Farmer Beets (Waxhaw, NC) are a match made in heaven? I could not have been more intrigued. I was eager to see the creative ways each team utilized these ingredients. My table quickly started throwing out ideas they hoped to see: smoked trout mousse, beet chips...but we didn't have time to brainstorm long - out came course #1! (All photos are courtesy of Bolt PR).

An ode to the classic British snack, The Natives prepared a Trout Sausage Scotch Egg. It sat beautifully atop The Specialty Farmer Beet & Leek Slaw, and was drizzled with a Caperberry Lemon Beurre Blanc. I loved this use of the Trout! Why aren't there more fish sausages? The chilled beet and leek slaw had a marvelous tang, and was a nice, bright fuchsia color. The caperberry lemon beurre blanc sold me on this dish, though. I would have loved another few ladlefuls!
Course #1
The Culinary Crushers responded with a Bourbon Honey-Glazed Trout, Mixed Grain Salad, TSF Beets and Potatoes, Chardonnay Vinaigrette, and shaved Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander Cheese. I would eat this every single day. I didn't pick up on the smoky, sweet notes typically promised from bourbon and honey, but the trout was cooked perfectly. The potato rounds and cheese shavings added to the heartiness of the dish. I would have liked to see a few more beet cubes, but otherwise I was very pleased with this light, autumnal dish. And now I'm addicted to Chapel Hill Creamery Cheese.
Course #2
I could smell dish #3 as it departed the kitchen - someone smoked the trout! The Natives presented us with a Buttermilk-Marinated Smoked Trout, with TSF Warm Beet and Potato Salad, and a Jalapeno Beet and Cranberry Chow Chow. I loved the idea of the smoked trout, but the smoke was a bit heavy-handed, masking all of the buttermilk notes. The accouterments totally made up for it. The potato salad is better than anything I've had at a church picnic or holiday dinner (sorry, Grandma) and the spicy, acidic pop from the jalapeno beets and cranberries really balanced the smokiness nicely. The crunch and salinity of the Trout Skin was like a fancy man's Pork Rind. Clever.
Course #3

I was hoping to see another funky trout preparation (trout nuggets, anyone?) but the Culinary Crushers delivered my favorite savory course of the night with their preparation of Pan-Seared Trout. The grilled Peach and Plum relish on top made me thrilled it's summer. The Porcini Powder-dusted Beet Chips were a perfect salty bite. The White Cheddar Curd Polenta and Goodnight Brothers Country Ham and Rosemary is soul food at its finest. My table mates and I tasted all ingredients separately, then got a bite of everything together, and our eyes collectively rolled into the back of our heads. Outstanding. The Pattypan Squash scattered about the plate seemed like an afterthought, but there wasn't a lot of thinking thanks to the food coma we were in after this rich dish.
Course #4
Dessert is my favorite part of Competition Dining battles. It makes or breaks a competitor, and with a fun, versatile ingredient like beets, I couldn't wait to see what was in store! The Natives came out strong with a Beet & Cherry Semifreddo, Beet and Nut Cake, Candied Beet Syrup, Sugar Plums and Ran-Lew Dairy Buttermilk Whipped Cream. I ranked this high on the creativity scale, because I never would have paired a fruit-forward, semi-frozen dessert with a spice cake, reminiscent of a carrot cake, but I am SO glad they did. The buttermilk whipped cream was killer, a nice compliment to the tangy beet syrup.
Course #5
The Culinary Crushers had big shoes to fill, but they held their ground with a Blackberry and Preserved Lemon Pound Cake, though the sponge was more like a muffin. A drizzle of Spiced- Candied TSF Beet Puree, and Hickory-Smoked Syrup Cream rounded out the dish. Again - I never would have thought to pair these flavors together, but I ate every bite! I preferred this to the previous dessert, but this did not honor the beet as well. It's easy to judge using your own palate, but you have to judge based on the Competition Dining ballot! (Rhymes are fun.)
Course #6
'Twas the hour we'd all been waiting for. Ballots were submitted, chefs popped champagne (thanks to the generosity of the pro judges) and it was time for the results. By 0.05 of a point, The Culinary Crushers came out on top! They'll go to battle against the Wiley Pickle Weasels from Undercurrent Restaurant in Greensboro tomorrow night. There's still time to get your tickets, folks - this is the most fun evening you will have, with some wonderful people. Don't miss out! Get your tickets for the finale here!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Competition Dining Heats up Greensboro

Who's ready for the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series to head to Greensboro?! The battles will be June 20th and 21st, with the finals taking place on the 23rd. I'll be there on the 21st, so get your tickets and you can be my date!

Chefs from Undercurrent (Greensboro) and Hobnob (Brevard) will face each other in the first round, with representatives from Native Kitchen and Social Pub (Asheville) squaring off against Sedgefield Country Club (Greensboro). The winners from each of the battles will duke it out for the opportunity to advance to the Final Fire: Battle of Champions in Raleigh this fall!

I'm already eager to see what the secret ingredient will be. I've been to Battle Pheasant & Molasses; Chestnut Flour; Honey; Rabbit; Ostrich; Summer Harvest; Organic Herbs...just to name a few! I've got a few guesses, but I'm always surprised! And I'm ALWAYS impressed with how fabulous the food is - these chefs really are pros. So if you're an adventurous eater (and know how to pace yourself), this event is not to be missed.

Get your tickets and I'll see you there!!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rooster's: A Noble Grille

Noble's Grille was a favorite of mine during my teen and young adult years in Winston-Salem. One of my good friends was a hostess, so we would often visit her while she was working, and end up snacking on some pretty delicious bites. When Chef John Bobby took over, and I visited years later as an adult, I wasn't surprised to find the reputation and food still going strong. Keeping in the same vein as their Charlotte restaurants, management has re-branded it as "Rooster's: A Noble Grille". While ever-so-slightly more casual, the food is just as inspired and tasty, with top-notch service. John Noble knows when he's got a good thing going, and he continues to have one here.

Buffalo Duck Wings
Nearly everything we ordered that evening came from the "daily inspirations" page, which is just as extensive as the standard menu. (It's worth noting that the menu was a bit long and overwhelming, as it's read flipping pages from a clipboard, rather than a standard tri-fold or one-sheeter.) A fun and delectable starter are the Buffalo Duck Wings - 4 wings, all dark meat, with a slightly crisp batter, doused in a spicy buffalo sauce. The homemade Ranch is packed with fresh dill flavor, and they could charge $25 for a bowl of just this. I intended to just have one wing, but that was impossible. You'll be sucking the meat off the bone, and hope no one catches you.

Grouper is one of my favorite fishes. It's thick, like a white steak. That evening's preparation was pan-seared, and served on a bed of farro (a grain, like brown rice or quinoa) with an herbaceous tomato broth and pea tendrils on top. This is how I like to eat. It had a great depth and balance of flavor but was not too rich. It was light and fresh, and I wish they would add it to their regular menu!
Pan-Roasted Grouper with Farro and Tomato Broth
Proteins on the standard menu are a la carte, and range from fish to beef to poultry. (Family-sized sides are encouraged to be shared.) One of my dining partners ordered pan-seared salmon, cooked a perfect medium rare (though I'll take her word for it, as salmon is on my do-not-eat list!), and was served in a savory but unnecessary broth. Another dining partner ordered the hanger steak, which rested in a fabulous red wine reduction sauce. It was utterly divine, and the medium rare steak was tender and a beautiful deep red color. This one is a winner.
Hanger Steak
Sides include vegetables like pan-fried corn and potatoes au gratin, and we chose two of the best on the list, I'm convinced. Fire-roasted beets are something I don't often (read: never) cook at home, so when they're available in restaurants, I like to get them. There was something special about these. They were naturally sweet, with the slightest, not at all offensive hint of smoke. Margaux's Succotash, on the other hand, boasts smoky flavors. Limas, tomatoes, corn and green beans marry in a smoky tomato broth and make me glad it's summer, so I can enjoy more dishes like this.
Beets & Margaux's Succotash
Roosters' dessert menu is a nice change from your standard chocolate lava cake/key lime pie/ cheesecake and the like. The Coconut Cake caught my eye (it always does!), and it's shipped in daily from their restaurant The King's Kitchen and Bakery in Charlotte. Close enough for me! A three layer round stack is a nice presentation, and I liked that every bite of cake had an appropriate and proportionate amount of icing. (My family and I tend to fight over the top corner of a traditional layer cake, calling it "the money bite".) The cake was served chilled, so had it come to room temperature, it would have been even better. It's studded with coconut and has a moist crumb. Creme anglaise and whipped cream accompany it.
Coconut Cake, you're beautiful.
If you haven't been to Rooster's since they re-branded, it's definitely worth a visit. The atmosphere is light with ample windows, and it's not too loud if you aren't sitting right by the open kitchen. The bar is large and welcoming. I look forward to many return visits.