How it works: Paying guests get to sample each course in a blind tasting alongside a panel of culinary and celebrity judges in a series of 15 dinner competitions hosted in the four regions of the state. Each evening, two restaurants “battle” it out side-by-side in a single elimination format. Guests savor a six-course menu (three dishes from each chef without knowing whose food they’re tasting) created around a “secret” ingredient. For almost all series, the secret ingredient will come from a North Carolina source. The secret ingredient is revealed to the chefs only an hour before they start cooking and it must be used in each of their three courses Diners, alongside culinary and guest judges, will rate each dish and determine who moves to the next round and who goes home. Quarter Final Round – both chefs have competed and won in the first round of competition.
Location: Fire in the Triangle takes place in Raleigh, at 1705 Prime, E Millbrook.
Secret Ingredient #1: Chestnut Flour
High Rock Farm is currently the largest chestnut orchard in the mid-Atlantic. With over five hundred chestnut trees High Rock Farm produces about 26,000 pounds a year of chestnuts. Harvesting happens between September and October. This is done by picking up the chestnuts by hand every day. Once in the barn the chestnuts go through a cleaning and sorting process which removes the unwanted debris from the nuts as well as any weevil eggs. After the nuts are sorted into various sizes the chestnuts are then stored in cold storage before they are shipped off to market. Some of the chestnuts are dried and are sold as kernels. These can be re-hydrated and then used in a wide range of foods and assorted dishes. Many of the nuts are dried and grounded into gluten free flour and sold at market. Since the chestnut is naturally gluten free the flour remains gluten free since it is grounded chestnuts with no additives.
Secret Ingredient #2: Certified Angus Beef
In 1981, Joe and his wife, Robin, began Back Creek in Mt. Ulla, N.C. He says they wanted something they could do together – and the decision to raise Angus cattle is one he’s never regretted.
Angus is everywhere these days. Over the last couple of decades it’s even become a bit of a buzzword. It’s true. Angus beef is good. But the Certified Angus Beef ® brand? It’s on an entirely different level. It defines the standard by which all beef is measured. No shortcuts and with a virtual obsession with flavor and juiciness.
Topo Distillery and the North Carolina Beer Guys supplied drinks. I loved my spicy Bloody Mary again last night. While we were waiting a basket of bread supplied by La Farm Bakery was placed on our table.
Table 4, my favorite table, consisted of Gwynn a psychology professor from Meredith College, her husband Brad a manager at SAS, Alison and Justin psychologists. (It is a small world Justin was from a dairy farm turned cattle ranch from upstate NYC close to where my Father’s came from.) Erin, Matt and Rebecca. These couples have been experimenting with food by hosting a supper club monthly.
Shaluka Perera co-founder of Nicklepoint Brewing; Shaluka also works at IBM. His partner Bruce Corregan, also a former IBM employee was not able to attend. They are pleased with their rapid rise in the microbrewery in the Triangle region, providing Strong Scotch Ale or Nickelpoint English IPA for the nights beer drinking pleasure.
Nickelpoint Brewing Co.® is a craft microbrewery located in Five Points neighborhood north of Raleigh, North Carolina offering classic European style ales. It is a family and dog friendly establishment. It was nice making a new friend. Located at 506 Pershing Road in Raleigh, NC 27608
First Course: Dashi: Black Garlic, Homemade High Rock Farm Chestnut Flour Pasta Braised CertAngusBeef Tri-Tip, Smoked Fennel Kimchi prepared by Chef Harris; receiving a score of 27.21
Second Course: Latin Braised CertAngusBeef Tri-Tip: High Rock Farm Chestnut Flour-Crusted Butternut Squash Guacamole, Perry Lowe Orchards Pink Lady Apple-Fennell-Radish Salad prepared by Chef Conklin; receiving a score of 29.82
Third Course: Carpetbagger: High Rock Farm Chestnut Flour-Fried Virginia Oyster, Grilled Tri-Tip, Benton’s Bacon Emulsion, Goat Lady Dairy Chevre goat cheese Polenta, Foy Farms Radish Sprout and Harissa prepared by Chef Harris; receiving a score of 30.49
Fourth Course: Seared @CertAngusBeef Tri-Tip: High Rock Farm Chestnut Flour & Cocoa Crust, Smokey Red Chimichurri, Scott Farms Sweet Potato-Bacon-Farro Salad, Avocado Purée and Foy Farms Radish Sprouts prepared by Chef Conklin; with a score of 28.18
Fifth Course: Buttermilk Cake: Meringue, Carbonated-Pickled North Carolina Blueberries, Chestnut Flour Crumble and White Chocolate Cream prepared by Chef Harris; with a score of 27.87
Sixth Course: Free Form Cobbler: Perry Lowe Orchards Caemo Apple- Chestnut Flour-Foie Gras Cobbler, White Chocolate Semi Freddo and Butter Pecan Syrup prepared by Chef Conklin; with a score of 29.71
The winner was Chef Ryan Conklin CEC of Rex Healthcare with a score of 29.23 over Chef Benjamin Harris with a score of 28.52. It was a battle to the end, who both chefs preparing an outstanding culinary experience.
The talk at our table was questioning how a Hospital Chef could be competing in Trial by Fire. After learning Chef Conklin had been a chef at the Four Seasons in NYC, we quickly were made aware of Chef Conklin’s abilities and why he is helping to change hospital dining along with the other Blackhat Chefs.
A special mention to Felicia Perry, for all the tweets and retweet. Trish W @tdub_hokie, who I met and enjoyed her tweets, as well as making a new friend. Also, a shout-out to the elusive Triangle Explorer, who I finally had the opportunity to met. Now that we have met, I hope to speak with you at other events.