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Fire in the Triad Week III:

Moonshine, goat cheese and molecular gastronomy

The third time’s the charm for the third week of Competition Dining’s Fire in the Triad series. The last week of preliminary dinners between four more local chefs and their teams took it to the cow’s head in the Empire Room of Downtown Greensboro last week. Full of the stuff real-life dramas are made of, this week’s Competition Dining had diners on the edge of their seats for two of the most anticipated battles of the season.

Monday Night: Strawberries and blueberries are in season for a short time but strawberry and blueberry moonshine is always de rigueur. Featuring Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moonshine, all six dishes featured pork, duck or cake. Chef Tim Thompson of Marisol in Greensboro was up against Chef Travis Myers of River Birch Lodge in Winston-Salem. Both chefs, new to Competition Dining, had the opportunity to study and see more than 20 competitions between this year and last. Tickets to this battle were sold out before the competition began last month. The families of both chefs filled the dining room, ready to cheer on their favorite chef. Thompson, originally from Banner Elk and familiar with the ways of the ’shine, wowed with a strawberry moonshine ice cream and butter cake with candied peanuts. Myers, more used to grilling elk, came strong with a strawberry shortcake made with crème anglaise, mini cathead biscuit, strawberry-moonshine confit and strawberry sorbet. Thompson’s upfront use of the ubiquitous white lightening let him speed past Myers for a place in the quarterfinals against Liberty Oak on June 12.

Tuesday Night: The red carpet was rolled out for the night’s featured ingredient, goat cheese from Celebrity Dairy in Siler City. Battle Goat Cheese starred Chef Creighton McNeil of Liberty Oak in Greensboro and Chef Christian Froelich of WS Prime in Winston-Salem. McNeil, new to Fire in the Triad, is not new to Competition Dining. Part of the Fire on the Dock Championship team in 2012, he already has a coveted red chef’s jacket in his possession and was in search of another. Froelich, Winston-Salem’s native son has been seen at signature events such as Twin City Cooks and is at the helm of all things culinary at the Twin City Quarter’s Marriott Hotel and WS Prime restaurant. McNeil was not shy for the paparazzi and created a beautiful short-rib and chèvre ravioli, saffron goat-cheese cream with pistachio and pink-peppercorn dust. Froelich countered with a sous vide filet, bacon-braised collards, goat-cheese fondue and chimichurri drizzle. Molecular gastronomy was no match for McNeil and his team moves on to meet Marisol on June 12.

For detailed descriptions, photos and the play-by-play, visit Nik Snacks blog at niksnacks.blogspot.com or Nik Snacks on Facebook. A geographically diverse first week of quarterfinals between Southern Roots, Greensboro Country Club, Noble’s Grille and J. Pepper’s place this week. To purchase tickets and get a seat near these local culinary celebrities, visit competitiondining.com

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