Competition Dining: Battle Videri Cocoa Nibs
Posted February 3, 2015
Updated October 21, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Videri Chocolate has been a previous secret ingredient during the Got to Be NC Competition Dining series, so the idea that it might pop up again seemed pretty reasonable.
But this year, Competition Dining is shaking things up. Not just by having the Triangle series in January and not summer, but by featuring different variations on traditional secret ingredients.
Monday night chefs were tasked with using Videri Chocolate's roasted cocoa nibs, which are not sweet like chocolate. The nibs are cocoa bean that have been roasted, separated from their husks and broken into smaller pieces.
The chefs tasked with using these nibs were Weathervane's Spencer Carter and Rhett Morris of Rhett's Restaurant in Southern Pines.
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: Bacon & Eggs - Videri Cocoa Nib-Cured Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Belly, Brown ButterLogan Turnpike Mill Grits, Goodnight Brothers Country Ham -“Nib” Gravy,North Carolina Egg Association Coddled Egg, House Made Cocoa Nib Croutons (Weathervane) Score: 25.56
The portion sizes varied on this dish from table to table. Team Weathervane told me after the battle that the ended up having to poach each egg to order, which is probably why each egg was cooked to different degrees. Mine was a little over-cooked.
The concept was great - Bacon and Eggs! Everyone loves breakfast food, but the pork belly was way too salty.
Final Fire champion Weathervane's Ryan Payne was on hand to support his protege, Carter. Payne said the saltiness was because the pork belly wasn't rinsed after being cured.
While the dish was good, it didn't have a great presentation and the secret ingredient got lost. Having said that, it was one of the best dishes of the night - which saw some pretty rough courses.
Course 2: Videri Cocoa Nib Ravioli, Confit of Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Cheek, Looking Glass Creamery, LLC “Chocolate Lab,” Arugula, Cocoa Nib Pesto, Romesco (Rhett's) Score: 21.70
This dish looked great. And it smelled amazing. Then, I tried to cut the ravioli. Props to Rhett and his team for hand-making each one of these, but they were a little dry and tough. The pork cheek inside was good, but getting to it was a huge battle.
Course 3: Chili-Videri Cocoa Nib-Crusted Certified Angus Beef ® brand“Bistro” Steak, “Nib”-Braised Cippolini Onions, Scott Farms Sweet Potato-Horseradish Purée, Cocoa Nib-Currant Steak Sauce, Horseradish Chips (Weathervane) Score: 27.51
After course 2, people wanted and needed something that knocked their socks off. This wasn't the dish. My table's dishes were lukewarm and cold, which really made the sweet potato puree unappetizing.
Course 4: Fortnight Brewing Company ESB-Braised Venison Osso Bucco, Videri Cocoa Nib-Rosemary Logan Turnpike Mill Grits Cake, Roasted Kalettes, Caramelized Fennel (Rhett's) Score: 22.53
The venison was so tough, I couldn't cut it. The grit cakes were bland and the cocoa nibs were just chunks that got in the way. This dish just perplexed me and the rest of the diners at my table.
We just kept asking ourselves why no one did anything Mexican. A mole would have been perfect!
Course 5: Triple Layer Videri Cocoa Nib Blondie, Cocoa Nib-Coffee Whipped Cream, Chocolate Mousse, Maple-Nut-Cherry Compote (Weathervane) Score: 32.76
Finally, dessert! The highest-scoring dish of the night, this gave diners the right level of cocoa nib, chocolate and coffee! I could have eaten five more of these! The presentation was also the best of the night.
Course 6: Videri Cocoa Nib Southern Tiramisu, Cocoa Nib Cookies, Coffee, Kahlua, Sweet Mascarpone, Charred Cocoa Nib Fluff, Candied Blood Orange, Chocolate-Caramel Sauce (Rhett's) Score: 24.10
This dish looked like an oatmeal cream cookie not tiramisu. I think the problem with this dish came with the title. Not only did it not look like tiramisu, it also had less coffee flavor than the previous course. And I have no idea where the Kahlua was in this dish, but I was really looking for it. Don't get me wrong, it was tasty. I ate it, but it wasn't what it billed itself and that confused diners.
The candied blood orange also just seemed unneccessary.
After working with what turned out to be a difficult ingredient to incorporate, it all came down to dessert. Team Weathervane's dessert helped catapult them to victory.
Carter will take on the winner of Tuesday night's battle in the quarterfinals on Feb. 17. Tickets are still available.