The “Got to Be NC” Competition Dining Series Fire in the Triangle got an exciting start Monday night with the first round competition between Four Square chef Shane Ingram and Twisted Fork's Adam Jones.
The night started with a video clip from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" to help reveal the night's secret ingredient - blueberries.
Guests were treated to a six course meal - three dishes from each chef. Diners and judges were not told which chef made which dish.
After digging into each course, diners cashed in their votes. The voting scale (0-5) was based on aroma, presentation, flavor and creativity involving the secret ingredient.
I served as one of two professional judges for the evening, alongside the News and Observer's Andrea Weigl. Our votes counted for 30 percent of the score, while the rest of the diners' votes made up the remaining 70 percent.
This competition is also technologically savvy with voting done on smartphones.
Here's a rundown of the courses:
First up, the crab blueberry roasted chili gazpacho with black quinoa and polenta fries. The dish scored high with diners but scored an even higher rating with me! With this being the first dish my expectations were high and they were definitely met. The dish was spicy and had a creative use of the secret ingredient. I was definitely a fan! We later found out that Team Four Square created this one.
The second dish, blueberry pheasant pad thai with shaved white asparagus salad, was also a Four Square creation. Unfortunately, there was no blueberry to be found in the dish. There were two small blueberries that were on the side of my plate but they seemed to have just been tossed in at the end. I don’t know if it was the lack of blueberries or that I just didn’t like it, but this one scored the lowest in my book. It seems that a few people agreed with me leaving the dish with a slightly lower rating among diners.
The third dish, chorizo blueberry stuffed shrimp with roasted white asparagus and blueberry coffee reduction. I never thought I would enjoy the taste of shrimp and blueberries together so much. The dish scored well among diners, and was made by The Twisted Fork crew.
A grilled blueberry and sage rubbed pheasant with lemon sage risotto, charred French beans and shitake mushrooms was the fourth dish, and it was also created by The Twisted Fork crew. The aroma and presentation of this dish were incredible and it was a great use of the secret ingredient. The bird was completely blue and I loved the flavor! This dish scored slightly lower among the diners.
After that, we moved onto dessert and my favorite dish of the night - a grilled vanilla bean pound cake with roasted blueberries, lime crumble, jalapeno mint syrup and toasted meringue made by Four Square. I wanted to bottle up the jalapeno mint syrup and take it home with me! The grilled pound cake was incredible and I loved the toasted meringue. It seemed that everyone most everyone agreed with me, this dish scored the highest rating of the night.
The final dish was from chef Adam Jones of The Twisted Fork. He later told everyone that this was a tribute to his father who was attending the event on his birthday. Jones made a blueberry ginger cobbler with bourbon biscuit and mint cream. This dish also scored pretty high, receiving more than 60 percent of the votes. It was hard to follow up the other dessert but this one was also pretty good. The mint cream gave the dish a very interesting flavor that I enjoyed; it was just a little too heavy for me.
The final scores for the night were very close, and I could definitely understand why.
In the end, Ingram and Team Four Square took the win beating Jones and Team Twisted Fork by just two percentage points.
The Fire in the Triangle website has more on how scores are tabulated.
Overall it was a wonderful night with great company and mouthwatering food. If you would like to get in the action, there are only a few tickets still available for later rounds. Those can be reserved online.
Here is a look at the rest of the first round match-ups: (They are all sold out!)
June 26: Christopher Hill (The Oxford) vs. Jimmy Reale (Chapel Hill Country Club)
Fire in the Triangle is part of the Got to Be NC competition dining series. The winner from the Triangle will go on to the "final four" to compete against the winners of the Fire on the Rock, Fire on the Dock and Fire in the Triad competitions. The Rock and Dock winners have been selected, and the Triad competition is coming up in August and September. The last chef standing wins $2,000 and the coveted red chef’s jacket. The runner-up will get $500.