Competition Dining: Battle Perry Lowe Orchards Apples
Posted February 3, 2015
Updated February 4, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — A newcomer to the Got to Be NC Competition Dining series made a bold statement from the start Tuesday night in a battle the featured cider and fruits in Battle Perry Lowe Orchards Apples.
"This is the best Tuesday night I've had in a long time," one diner declared.
Chef Brandon Stark brought a large and vociferous cheering section all the way from Carolina Beach to represent Michael's Seafood, and Benjamin Guaman led his team in from Chapel Hill's Governor's Club.
As with all Competition Dining events, the dishes are served and no one knows who made what until after the scores are tabulated. Here's a rundown of each course, reviews and results. In each round and overall, diners (the Joes) and local chefs (the Pros) grade the dish on aroma, presentation, creativity and other factors. All scores are out of a possible 40 points. The score shown is the final weighed score for each dish.
Course 1: Gold Rush Apple Marinated Octopus, Honey Crispy Apple Slaw, Apple Caviar, Crispy Kombu Seaweed, Perry Lowe Orchards Apple Broth (Michael's Seafood) Score: 26.88
"I wasn't really ready for the fruit," Stark said after the battle had finished, but he went into the day with a plan that paid off.
"I knew I wanted to use octopus right away," he said.
That choice came as a surprise to diners, and this dish set the creativity bar high for the five course to follow.
Pam Rehbock of Raleigh liked how Stark played up the secret ingredient.
"I am amazed at how the apples remained crunchy," she said.
Course 2: Pink Lady Apple Scottish Salmon, Parsnip Mousseline, Sautéed Lacinato Kale, Perry Lowe Orchards Apple Beurre Blanc (Governor's Club) Score: 24.86
It was tough to follow that opening dish, but Guaman did so with salmon that Chilaya Moore called "cooked perfectly."
Course 3: Perry Lowe Orchards Apple & Chorizo Braised Veal Cheeks, Apple Roasted Scott Farms Fingerling Sweet Potatoes, Apple Spinach Grits, Bourbon Apple Reduction, Apple Guacamole (Michael's) Score: 24.74
My favorite of the night perfectly blended all elements and included the de riguer use of grits.
This rich, smoky dish built in heat with every bite.
Course 4: Cameo Apple & Butternut Squash Stuffed Breast of Maple Leaf Farms Duck, Pink Lady Apple Scented Calasparras Rice, Perry Lowe Orchards Stayman Apple Jus (Governor's) Score: 21.91
Guaman's interview, in which he cited rice as his choice for his last meal on Earth, gave this one away.
Diners were split on whether the spices in this dish were just right or too subtle.
Nancy Davis, of Chapel Hill, called it "good, but not over the top good."
Course 5: Perry Lowe Orchards Raw Apple Sponge Cake, Caramel Cream Cheese Icing, Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream, Baked Apple Chip (Michael's) Score: 28.43
Diners didn't mind the super rich feel of this first dessert or the fact that it leaned heavily on icing.
David Kelly of Raleigh called it "simply delicious."
Course 6: Stayman Apple Cornmeal Pound Cake, Gold Rush Apple Cider Sabayon Glace, Honey Tuile, Honey Crispy Apple Cider Anglaise, Cameo Apple & Beet Gelée (Governor's) Score: 25.12
Guaman's dessert missed the mark for Kim of Wilmington. "It's a weird pairing of five different things."
A tablemate sought for a compliment, citing the sauce, but for more than one diner I talked to, the cornmeal cake was just too dense and dry to redeem this dish.
From the first bold choice, Stark ran away with this one. Michael's owner Shelly McGowan said she found it really hard to tell as the dishes came out whether they were Stark's work, and he said he didn't try to leave any hints.
"I let my food do the talking," he said.
Michael's Seafood meets Weathervane in the quarterfinals on Feb. 17. Tickets are still available.