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[FIRE IN THE TRIAD]

Fire in the Triad Week IV: Quarterfinals hinge on secret weapons and chocolate

The Fire in the Triad quarterfinals are now underway. If you thought the brackets were full of fire and a whetstone before, the intensity of the blaze has really reached impassioned levels at this stage. Fire in the Triad isn’t just hot. It’s a redhot, torrid love affair with local food and its best restaurants. A new adage I’d like to coin rang true during the festivities last week: The family that sautées together stays together.

Monday night: the first quarterfinal Fire in the Triad was between Chef Wes Patterson of Southern Roots in Jamestown and Chef Gregory John of Greensboro Country Club. Both chefs singed the competition during the preliminary rounds and were back to planning culinary greatness in the Empire Room in Downtown Greensboro. It was Battle Blonde and Blue with Carolina Blonde Cream Ale from Foothills Brewing and bluefish from Wanchese Fish Co.

The Triad must have a sweet set of teeth, because the dessert courses scored higher than the entreé and appetizer courses combined. Silent but deadly, Patterson smoldered diners’ expectations with a peanut-butter Carolina Blonde tart, pistachio brittle and blueberry beer compote.

Meanwhile, John inebriated the crowd with a drunken chocolate-almond cake and Carolina Blonde cherry reduction. A little known fact: John, the dark horse of the competition has a secret weapon: his wife. The Mrs. was formerly a pastry chef and responsible for providing her toquewearing husband the recipe for victory.

John will meet Bobby on June 18 for a spot in the finals.

Tuesday night: the second quarterfinal Fire in the Triad dinner took place between Chef John Bobby of Noble’s Grille in Winston-Salem and Chef Juan Guzman of J. Pepper’s in Kernersville. Both chefs, young and full of aplomb, used a few old tricks to send diners into a fiery frenzy. The night’s featured ingredient, chocolate from Mona Lisa Chocolate in Hendersonville made everyone swoon with appreciation. Chef Guzman sneaked up on his competition with pulled pork, dark chocolate BBQ sauce, sweet-potato and white-chocolate puree and grilled flatbread with apple gremolata. Chef Bobby extinguished that spicy melange with a vanilla sponge cake layered with milk-chocolate almond crunch and sea salt. Bobby’s secret weapon? His pastry chef and wife, Lucia. She is one-third of Team Noble’s and she turned this mother out with her impressive pastry skills and attention to detail. Will pastry skills be enough to beat out the elegant plating of the Greensboro Country Club? Only the fork tine will tell.

For detailed descriptions, photos and the culinary play-by-play, visit Nik Snacks blog at niksnacks.blogspot.com or Nik Snacks on Facebook. Next week, stay tuned for highlights of unofficial Battle Forsyth County with Meridian in Winston-Salem and Bistro B of Kernersville. Also, a battle Natty Greene himself would be proud to judge: Marisol and Liberty Oak of Greensboro will represent Guilford County. To purchase tickets and be a part of this culinary family affair, visit competitiondining.com.

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