In the beginning, there was the Japanese cooking show, Iron Chef, which I confess I found unappealing. Weird ingredients, weird dishes. But then came Top Chef. I've seen every episode of every season. And the reunions. And Top Chef Masters and even Top Chef Desserts, even though I am not at all in to making that kind of dessert. I am currently enamored of Top Chef All-Stars and The Worst Cooks in America and tivo Chopped. I'll watch Iron Chef America and Hell's Kitchen if nothing else is on, and can't wait for the new season of The Next Food Network Star. Are you sensing a theme? What can I say? There are way worse obsessions.
Through these many hours of watching competitive cooking, I have honed my food judging skills. That scallop does not have a proper sear on it! The risotto is too stiff! The sauce is separating and is visually unappealing! But, no one has ever asked me to judge, until now...
Fire on the Rock is a local chef challenge in its third year. I had never been before Tuesday night's first heat, but I've already got my eye on at least two other nights I want to attend. Along the lines of Iron Chef, in each round, they line up the head chefs of two restaurants, along with their sous chefs, give them a secret ingredient, and each team produces 3 dishes. For $40, you can be served and judge the six dishes. What fun! We scored each dish on visual appeal, aroma, overall taste, use of the special ingredient (double points), and accompaniments. The winner of each round progresses up the ladder until one chef is left standing.
The night's secret ingredient was ginger. My two favorite dishes of the night were the Slow Braised Pork Belly with a Thai Ginger Soy Reduction, Roasted Mushrooms, and Ginger Sweet Potato Wonton (the second highest scoring dish of the night):and the Green Tea & Ginger Panna Cotta with Ginger-infused Berry Compote & a Ginger Lemon Palmier: