Fire in the Triad Finale

Last night’s Fire in the Triad Finale was no joke. And I came *this close* to missing the whole thing when by some crazy chance, I checked my FB and I saw that someone needed to SELL their tickets. Hark! My prayers were answered when the lovely Chef Adam Rose from Hotel Siena’s Il Palio in Chapel Hill returned my call to unburden him of his tickets as he couldn’t attend the Finale. After much srambling to find a sitter, etc., Mr. and Mrs.Foodie made it happen to attend the most anticipated event of the region’s series, which featured 2 incredible Greensboro talents– Chef Michael Harkenreader of Undercurrent versus George Neal of 1618 Seafood Grille. You have to know, that it is way more than about the six course meal that is beyond most anything we common folk have tasted. There’s a camaraderie among the diners because we are all there for the joy of food. And it’s a wonderful spirit of competition in which other restaurants are cheering their fellow chefs to achieve their personal best. So, on with the competition…
After some very cool introductions and pomp and circumstance the secret ingredient was revealed…PEANUTS (you should’ve heard the gasps from my fellow blogger, Nikki Miller-Ka of NikSnacks…she’s allergic…uh oh–no worries they modified for her and she took some meds) and what goes with them? Beer! Let Battle Peanuts & Beer begin.
Course 1/Harkenreader
Red Onion Smoked Cheddar Tarte Tartin, IPA Roasted Peanut Vinaigrette, Lavender-Orange Marmalade

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This dish was pleasantly sweet with nice hints of the IPA. The salad along side offered a nice freshness to offset the sweet. I didn’t get much lavender. Still it was very different.

Course 2/Neal
Peanut Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Apple Compote, Caramelized Onion, Romano, Andouille Oktoberfest Risotto Cake, Coconut Sauce, Curry Oil & Balsamic

This was a marvelous little tenderloin with a sweet compote on top. I fell in love with the risotto. I’ve done wine in my risotto but never beer. What a great idea. I’ll do that soon. Neal said he didn’t use much stock in the risotto. The beer yielded a lovely flavor in the background and complimented the andouille.

Course 3/Neal
Korean IPA Braised Pork Open Faced Taco, Parsley, Radish, Carrots & Peanuts, Puff Pastry Ball Stuffed with Shrimp, Peanuts, NC Tomatoes, Basil & Goat Cheese, BBQ Beer Sauce, Sweet Potato Buerre Blanc

Everyone loves a taco, right?  Delicious with lots going on.  I like goat cheese but felt it might be a bit much, but when added to the sweet potato buerre blanc, it tamed it some. The BBQ beer sauce was nummy.  A little hard to eat when it’s all stacked like so, yet a sight to behold.

Course 4/Harkenreader
Bacon Wrapped Pork Osso Bucco, Apple Turnip Puree, Oktoberfest Peanut Mole, Boiled Peanut Hummus, Celery Gremolata

This was my favorite of the night, though it did not get the highest marks.  For sure it was the most creative dish of the night because NOTHING was expected.  Oktoberfest peanut mole?  Boiled peanut HUMMUS?  Pork osso buco (aka ham hock, thanks Nik) and though you can’t see it, he put a little potato baton where the bone should be.  Turnip puree, wow. The gremolata added freshness.  Sister foodie said it wasn’t her favorite.  The more Mr. Foodie and I ate it, the more we LOVED.  Very cool dish.

Course 5/Harkenreader
Ginger & Sea Salt Chocolate Ganache, Caramel-Honey Ice Cream, Peanut Buttermilk Cake, Porter-Molasses Glaze

I LOVE sea salt and chocolate and caramel. Holy cow it’s divine.  So was this dish. The chocolate was like velvet with bits of the sea salt and ginger.  The ice cream was delish. I couldn’t get much out of the little peanut buttermilk cake but it did make an able vessel to soak up the ice cream and porter molasses glaze.  It was a hit.

Course 6/Neal
Cinnamon Roll with Candied Peanuts, Chocolate Bowl filled with Chocolate Peanut Porter Ice Cream, Crème Anglaise

This is the one shot that’s our photo.  I just like it more than the little cup sitting on my perfectly delightful cinnamon roll.  That cinnamon roll made all right with the world.  The porter ice cream had chunks of peanuts in it.  We slurped it up with the cup (isn’t that what cups are for?)  The little peanuts on top made a nice compliment and so different since we are so used to pecans in our cinnamon rolls.

After the votes it was revealed that George Neal of 1618 Seafood Grille is Fire in the Triad Champion.  When asked if he expected to make it to the finals he shyly said, “kind of, yeah.”  I love it!  There was never a doubt the foodies knew he had it in him.

Here’s George along with the other 3 red coat champions from The Rock, The Dock, The Triangle.

Chef Michael Foreman/Bistro Roca-Fire on the Rock; Chef Ryan Payne/Weathervane-Fire in the Triangle; Chef George Neal/1618-Fire in the Triad;
Chef Andy Hopper/Chefs 105-Fire on the Dock

Coming soon, THE FINAL FIRE.  I hope to bring you all the details if I’m lucky enough to score some tix.  Until then, visit Competition Dining and remember IT’S GOT TO BE NC.

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