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What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Carter, Catering Works claim first victory in Cooking for a Classic

Posted February 20

— Triangle foodies got their first taste Monday night of the latest competition to pit local chefs and welcome amateur judges.

Sixteen teams are Cooking for a Classic, donating their time and talents to create six-course food-and-drink menus for hungry ticket-holders. The teams will compete in a single-elimination, four-round bracket, and the winner will drive away in the grand prize: a restored 1969 Corvette Stingray.

In the opening round, Dean Thompson, chef of Flights, the much-acclaimed restaurant in the Renaissance Raleigh North Hills hotel, squared off against Rich Carter of Raleigh-based Catering Works.

Each chef prepared three dishes: a starter, which was required to be vegan or vegetarian, a main with a protein and a dessert. Each food course was served with a chef-recommended drink pairing.

Rich Carter cider

Once guests were seated and the competitors introduced, it was apparent that Catering Works had a large cheering contingent in the dining room.

They would not be disappointed. Carter and his team advanced to the second round, to face the winner between teams from Sitti and Vidrio on Wednesday, March 8.

Carter's dishes – a potato and paprika appetizer with a paprika-rimmed cocktail, a colorful duck breast main and a chocolate cherry dessert – edged Thompson's contributions in an outcome that was "stupid close," according to the evening's host.

Rich Carter duck entree

"Man that is pretty," one diner exclaimed as the duck arrived nestled in concentric circles of beet puree and sweet potatoes.

"It tastes like fall," another diner said.

It was this dish where the drink pairing made the biggest difference. Carter sent out a Valdelamillo Reserva Tempranillo, which was a touch sweet on its own, but perfect in contrast with the duck.

Dean Thompson pork in soy glaze

Thompson's entree was the favorite of the diners at my table. His pork with soy glaze hit on a common flavor palate while taking execution to the next level.

Steak knives were provided but hardly necessary for a fork-tender braised pork one diner described as "spreadable."

Rich Carter dessert

Carter's dessert put him over the top. Sour cherries complemented dense chocolate cake in a beautiful presentation. His dessert cocktail, hot cherry cocoa with TOPO vodka and cherry whipped cream, was another dessert in itself.

Thompson's dessert was a good idea let down by execution. It tasted as though the team made that dish first, then froze it. It didn't have time enough to thaw to allow the flavors of peanut butter, chocolate and banana to overcome the shock of the cold.

Throughout the evening, guest rated each course on taste, presentation and other values using a website, and the winner was announced once all the dishes were cleared.

Proceeds from tickets sold throughout the series benefit the nonprofit Lucy Daniels Center, which helps children with mental and emotional issues.

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