Competition Dining: Battle Sorghum Molasses and Calvander Cheese
Posted February 11, 2015
Updated February 12, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Tuesday’s quarterfinals brought together two Got to Be NC Competition Dining veterans, and the experience paid off with a remarkable dining experience.
Hill, formerly of the Oxford, was making his first appearance with Faire, which opened four months ago. He’s appeared in all four years of the competition, the only chef to do so. He reached the quarterfinals for the first time in two years with a tight 0.47 point victory over Il Palio in the first round.
Ingram returned to Competition Dining after a two-year absence. He pounded rookie Ben Strange of New Bern’s Aperitivo, winning by more than four points in January to cruise into the second round.
The chefs were then given the perfect ingredients for an epic six-course battle. The pair of featured items for the meal were Calvander cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery and sorghum syrup molasses from Harrell Hill Farms. The result was a sweet and savory evening for the lucky diners in attendance.
“Wow,” Competition Dining chef ref Bobby Zimmerman told the crowd afterward. “What a great day in the kitchen. You all must be ecstatic.”
Ingram posted a total score that would have been good enough to win four of this season’s previous competitions. Hill shattered Competition Dining records. And diners were treated to a four-meat extravaganza as both chefs pulled out all the stops.
Because there were two ingredients, the chefs only had to include the cheese in two of their three courses, and the molasses in two of the three. Hill and Ingram ignored this loophole and included both featured ingredients in every course, not willing to show any weakness by leaving something out.
The featured drinks for the evening were a pair of beers from Nickelpoint Brewery and signature cocktails using TOPO distillery spirits. A Blueberry Collins and Nickelpoint Scotch Ale were the perfect accompaniments for the meal to follow. La Farm provided an artisan basket featuring three different breads.
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: Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses & Charred Rosemary Lacquered Breast of Maple Leaf Farms Duck, Perry Lowe Orchards Pink Lady Apple-Red Quinoa-Mint-Sorghum Relish, Green Chili-Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander Sauce (Ingram) Score: 27.45
Experienced Competition Dining NC event-goers were able to identify this as Ingram’s dish quickly. It was Ingram’s fourth contest, and he’s included quinoa in his first course of all four. The calvander sauce complemented the sweet-lacquered duck well. Ingram may have left the door open slightly by skimping on side dishes with this course, lowering his score in the “accompaniments” category.
Course 2: Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander-Logan Turnpike Cornmeal Crusted Manchester Farms Breast of Quail, Cashews, Potato-Calvander Rösti, Blueberry-Harrell Hill Farm Sorghum Syrup Molasses BBQ Sauce, Bacon & Brussels Sprouts (Hill) Score: 29.11
The calvander potatoes and bacon-Brussels sprouts highlighted Ingram’s oversight in his opening course. The breaded quail was extremely tasty, but also somewhat heavy, which may explain the relatively low score from the professional judges. It didn’t seem as technically sound as Ingram’s duck, but it had more flavor.
Course 3: Sweet & Sour Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses Lamb Chop, Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander-Shiitake Broth, High Rock Farm Chestnut Flour-Calvander Orecchiette, Red Cabbage Slaw (Ingram) Score: 28.54
Ingram’s highest-scoring dish of the night had diners wondering if it was acceptable to pick up the bone to gnaw off the last remaining bits of lamb at a place as classy as 1705 Prime. For most of us, the taste of Ingram’s creation outweighed any concerns over etiquette, and it wasn’t a close call. The orecchiette and slaw were powerful side dishes, as well.
Course 4: Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses & Butter Braised Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Butt, Sorghum-Chorizo Broth, Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander-Parsnip-Fennel Rice Pudding, Texas Pete Cha! (Hill) Score: 30.17
When the description appeared on the screen, diners puzzled over how pork on a bed of rice pudding, with Texas Pete, could possibly produce a presentable dish, but this was Hill at his creative best. The dish was a sensational blend of tastes, and it produced the highest judges’ score for a course in Triangle history, breaking the 33.67 posted by chef John Childers of Herons last June.
Course 5: Winter Spiced Poundcake, Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander Anglaise, Perry Low Orchards Apple Confit, Harrell Hill Sorghum Syrup Molasses Whipped Cream, Pomegranate-Apple Coulis (Ingram) Score: 26.35
Any chance Ingram had of stealing a victory depended on a home run for his dessert. The poundcake was a hit, but it didn’t clear the wall. Diners were still reeling from the pork course they’d just experienced, and the dessert allowed them time to regroup and prepare for Hill’s grand finale.
Course 6: Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses & Lusty Monk Burn in Hell Chipotle Mustard Glazed Yeast Doughnut, Fogwood Foods Butter Pecan-Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander Ice Cream, White Peach, Pink Guava (Hill) Score: 30.80
By this point, Hill was just showing off. After five courses that all included sorghum syrup molasses, of course, the final dessert would feature Burn in Hell chipotle mustard. Hill’s judges scoring record didn’t last long, as he topped his pork dish’s performance with this victory lap.
Hill posted the second-highest total-combined score of the year, at 30.03, including an eye-popping 32.44 from the professional judges. At 27.47, Ingram had no reason to be ashamed of his performance. He just happened to draw an opponent who was having an historic evening in the kitchen.
Hill advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2012. He’ll take on Ryan Conklin of Rex Healthcare, the only chef to post a higher total-combined score this season, on Feb. 23. Tickets are still available.