Raleigh, N.C. — The one ingredient Carolina Inn chef James Clark didn't want to see was eggs. Despite having his own chicken coop, Clark told me last week that he doesn't like eggs. His family enjoys them, but he'd rather go out and eat fried chicken.
Nevertheless, Clark had to deal with eggs on Tuesday night when he competed against 518 West's Serge Falcoz-Vigne during Fire in the Triangle.
North Carolina farm fresh eggs and Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork bacon were the featured ingredients for this first round battle at 1705 Prime in Raleigh.
The night featured some great dishes and delicious accompaniments.
Diners were asking for second bread baskets after they learned that La Farm Bakery in Cary has become the official bread of Competition Dining. Wheat, sourdough and their famous white chocolate baguettes were among the selections for diners to nosh on. Fire in the Triangle 2014 Coverage
This week, Competition Dining is highlighting the recently-opened Brueprint Brewing Company in Apex. Brueprint prepared a flight of beer pairings available for purchase. A wine flight was also available from Adams Vineyard in Willow Spring. Jones vonDrehle winery in Thurmond had two featured selections on the wine list for the night as well.
Now, let's get to the food!
Each chef had to create three dishes using both secret ingredients. It was a blind tasting, so no diners knew who made what. Here's a rundown of each course, reviews and results. In each round and overall, diners (the Joes) and local media foodies including WRAL Out & About (the Pros) grade the dish on aroma, presentation, creativity and other factors. The scores listed are the final scores for each dish. Scores are out of 40 points.
Course 1: Arugula and Lardons, NC English Muffin, Raspberry Sriracha, Poached NC Egg, Heritage Farms Bacon Jam (518 West) (Score: 29.86)
While the Sriracha sauce was a highlight for several diners, Greg Semposki wasn't a fan, saying that the sweetness "overpowered the bacon."
Karin Sadivy isn't normally a fan of sweet dressings, but really enjoyed this dish mainly because of the sauce.
The 2012 Fire in the Triangle and Final Fire champion, Weathervane's Ryan Payne, was a professional judge for the evening. He said the secret ingredients were really present in this dish.
Blogger Jill Warren Lucas was impressed that the team perfectly poached so many eggs for the 100 plus diners. With so many eggs to make, Falcoz-Vigne said that he found himself questioning why he decided to do this particular dish.
"When I cook the eggs, I say 'Why I do this?'" the French chef said.
The 518 West team made these English muffins themselves, which garnered a lot of "ooohs and ahhs" among diners.
This dish scored the highest and remained a talking point throughout the evening.
Course 2: Seared Scallop, Corn & Little River Crab Ragout, Heritage Farms Bacon Hollandaise, Lemon Oil (Carolina Inn) (Score: 22.19)
The first scallop dish of the night left many diners looking for the secret ingredients. The bacon and the egg got a little lost in the hollandaise sauce.
Some tables had underdone scallops, while others had ones that were overdone.
Table six just wanted to have more bacon hollandaise sauce.
Course 3: Seared Scallop, Heritage Farms Bacon over a Polenta Cake and Creamy Cauliflower, Got To Be NC High Rock Farm Blackberry Hollandaise, Sherry Vinegar, Maple Syrup Reduction (518 West) (Score: 25.07)
The second of the scallop dishes, Falcoz-Vigne said he had no doubts about using the fish when he heard that it was the only fish in the kitchen pantry besides Mahi-mahi. Since scallops go well with hollandaise sauce he felt it was a great way to showcase the eggs.
Many diners were a fan of this scallop dish more so than its predecessor.
"The flavors were the best of the two scallop dishes," Payne said.
The cauliflower and blackberry hollandaise sauce was a highlight.
"Wow. Just ate cauliflower and loved it," Karin Sadivy Tweeted.
Greg Semposki liked the polenta cake's crunch but felt the eggs and bacon in this course were "non-existent."
Edible Piedmont's Fred Thompson, a pro judge for the evening, felt the use of hollandaise sauce in courses two and three was a "cheap way of trying to get eggs into the dish."
Karl VonRoekel said he was not as pleased with the dish because he was hoping to be "slapped in the face by bacon." He got that in the next course.
Course 4: Cheerwine Braised Heritage Farms Slab Bacon, Goat Cheese Old Mill of Guilford Grits, Poached NC Egg, Pickled Shiitake and Grilled Scallion Relish (Carolina Inn) (Score: 24.50)
Marcey Clark, wife of Carolina Inn chef James Clark, said she knew this dish had to be from her husband. The two attended culinary school together.
VonRoekel said the dish was bland and the bacon needed salt.
"Any meal including Cheerwine (love Salisbury, NC) is five stars to me!" diner Kirsten Durling Tweeted.
The quality of the poached eggs varied from table to table with some getting overcooked eggs and others getting ones that appeared slightly underdone.
Host and Competition Dining creator Jimmy Crippen said the chefs really took a chance doing poached eggs. Professional judges might notice the skill in it, if done right, while the "Joes" might just see a runny egg. The perception could vary so much that it could hurt the chef's scores.
Course 5: Lewis Farms Blueberry NC Egg Crème Caramel, Heritage Farms Bacon Fat Cookies, Chocolate Bacon, Roasted Pistachios (518 West) (Score: 25.59)
"Bacon fat cookie??? Creme Caramel??? Delicious!" Steph Caronna Tweeted.
Diner Jeff Sloyer was also a fan, calling it the best course so far.
"All around technically hard to execute but came out perfect. You had me at chocolate and bacon," he Tweeted.
Some diners, however, complained about over soggy bacon and runny egg creme.
Course 6: Toasted Nut Butter Torte, NC Egg Custard, High Rock Farm Blackberry, Heritage Farms Bacon Ice Cream (Carolina Inn) (Score: 26.52)
Greg Semposki and the majority of his table were fans of the bacon ice cream in this dish. They really enjoyed the sweet and salty mix.
I wasn't a fan of the chunks of bacon in the ice cream, but I appeared to be in the minority.
"The best part of course six was the ice cream with bacon," Jeff Sloyer Tweeted. While he said the crispiness of this course was "awesome," he did say that he liked course five better.
Both chefs had competed previously in Fire in the Triangle, but Falcoz-Vigne seemed to be the "breakfast secret ingredient" veteran of the two. He got Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Joe Van Gogh coffee last year as secret ingredients.
Falcoz-Vigne said he had originally planned to work with veal but the secret ingredients changed his plans entirely. He theorized that next round he could see butter, flour of milk as secret ingredients.
Clark said he was stunned to see eggs as the secret ingredient, but "at least there was bacon." He said he was proud of his team and the dishes they served.
Falcoz-Vigne and Team 518 West will compete July 21 against the winner of Wednesday night's battle.
Tickets are available for some of the upcoming battles but are going fast – Crippen estimated they are 90 percent sold out.
Fire in the Triangle is part of the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series. The winner from the Triangle will go on to compete against the winners of the Fire on the Rock, Fire on the Dock, Fire in the Triad and Fire in the City competitions. The last chef standing wins $2,000 and the coveted red chef’s jacket. The runner-up will get $500.
WRAL's Out and About is the official blogger for Fire in the Triangle, so look for exclusive content, interviews and more from each battle!