Fire in the Triangle: Battle La Farm and White Street
Posted June 23, 2014
Updated June 24, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Bread and beer were the secret ingredients for the Fire in the Triangle opener Monday night. The culinary challenge saw reigning Fire in the Triangle champion Dean Thompson, of Flights at the Renaissance Hotel in North HIlls, take on a newcomer, Cantina 18's Joseph Yarnell.
The bread proved to be the most daunting ingredient.
"As easy as it sounds, it was hard to change it up and make it different from what is already is," Thompson said.
Yarnell agreed. "It was a constant struggle to adapt," he said. "Bread and beer were not what we were expecting."
White Street brought two beers for diners to choose from, and for the first time North Carolina wine was prominently featured. A $20 wine pairings option was the hottest ticket - giving you the perfect wines for each of the six courses. Bottles and wine by the glass were also available. The dessert course went great with a blueberry wine from Adams Vineyard in Willow Spring. It also didn't hurt that I was sitting next to North Carolina Wine representative Whit Winslow, who obviously knows his wine!
In addition to Whit, I sat with Yarnell's entire family - his parents, brother, grandparents, girlfriend and her parents. They were so proud! He actually went to culinary school with his mother at Wake Tech. He branched off to the culinary side and his mom went the pastry route. His mother teared up when they showed his interview video on the big screens.
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.
Course 1: La Farm Bakery, Lusty Monk Mustard & White Street Kölsh Crusted Monkfish with Seared Scallop, Johnston County Cured Pork Shoulder, Kölsh Cream, Sourdough Grits, Jicama Panzanella (Flights) (Score: 29.94)
This first course was a great start to the night. People were still talking about it and comparing everything else to it more than halfway through the meal.
"To serve monkfish and scallops and keep it edible for 150 people on the fly is a great accomplishment," 2013 Fire in the City winner John Fortes said. Fortes was a professional judge for the evening.
WRAL's Ken Smith, also a pro judge for the night, said the flavors complemented each other very nicely.
Diner Emily Turgeon loved the fried bread in the entree. Some diners likened the pieces to croutons.
After the battle, chef Dean Thompson told me that the scallops were an afterthought. They were short on monkfish and needed to figure something out so they made the scallops.
Table six were huge fans.
"I want three more of those," diner Julie Spencer said.
Course 2: White Street Kölsh-Brined Manchester Farms Quail Nuggets with La Farm Bakery Sourdough Breading, Pickled Summer Salad, Kölsh Barbecue Sauce (Cantina 18) (18.77)
This was the lowest scoring dish of the night. After such a strong start, this dish just fell flat with a lot of diners.
Fortes felt the problem lied with the balance of flavors, citing the acidity in the sauce.
Fellow pro judge James Rivenbark, chef at South Beach Grill in Wrightsville Beach, thought the quail was dry and needed more seasoning.
Course 3: White Street Kölsh-Marinated Venison, Kölsh-Braised Mushrooms, Savory Lobster Bread Pudding, Kölsh Hollandaise (Flights) (Score: 30.94)
The highest-scoring dish of the night really celebrated White Street's beer.
"The Kolsh really came through more in this dish," White Street's Harmonee Schilling. She said this beer can really become much more muted when you cook it, so to bring out those flavors is a real accomplishment.
Ken Smith agreed.
Diner Patrick Gagan loved the hollandaise sauce featuring the brew.
People kept comparing this dish to the first - trying to decide their favorite.
Course 4: White Street Kölsh-Marinated Seared Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Tenderloin, La Farm Bakery Sourdough Pork Sausage, Grits, Grilled Zucchini, Peach Glaze (Cantina 18) (Score: 24.23)
"Is it OK to lick the plate?" Whit Winslow said.
The grits and the peach sauce were the highlights of this dish, which had a lot of people cleaning their plates.
Rivenbark would have liked to have seen a slice of La Farm's sourdough bread with some rosemary between the grits and the pork.
Course 5: White Chocolate La Farm Bakery Icebox Cake, Candied Pecans, Chocolate Ganache, Caramelized Beer, Banana-Kölsh Custard (Flights) (30.77)
The first dessert had many diners wanting their steak knives back so they could cut it.
"Once you chiseled through it, the flavors were complimentary," Ken Smith said.
The texture was a little bit of a battle with some layers of the cake being quite chewy. The consistency between each diner's portion was also a concern. Some had softer cakes, while others were battling to break through for a bite.
The star of this dish was the the custard, which had many diners asking for more!
Course 6: White Chocolate Mousse, Kölsh Caramel, Raspberries & La Farm Bakery White Chocolate Baguette Croutons (Cantina 18) (22.05)
Ken Smith called this a perfect summer dessert and he was right. It was light, the flavors weren't too overwhelming.
But the featured ingredients didn't get a chance to shine.
Rivenbark likened the mousse to whipped cream and several diners mentioned the croutons were soggy.
In the end, the challenging ingredients took a toll on the first time Fire in the Triangle competitor Yarnell. He said the pairing of the two ingredients really left his team having to "think on the fly."
Host and Competition Dining creator Jimmy Crippen said the first Fire in the Triangle experience for any chef is a challenge and he hopes to see Yarnell again next year.
Thompson said he and his team made mistakes that didn't come back to haunt them. He cited some tables getting not properly prepared venison.
"Visually (our dishes) were not as clean as we would have liked them to be," Thompson said.
Thompson will face the winner of Tuesday night's preliminary round in a battle set for July 14. Tickets are still available but going fast!
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!