“Oh my God,” was all she said when the Secret Ingredient was revealed at last night's Iron Fork competition. Then Zola restaurant's chef Deb Paquette got to work on a potato brandad with beef tenderloin and shrimp and an apple turnover—both showcasing fiddlehead ferns—to take home the coveted Golden Fork.
Paquette's Mediterranean-inspired treatments of fiddlehead ferns trumped the outstanding efforts of Will Uhlhorn, Bobby Benjamin, Sean Norton and Clay Greenberg when the five chefs squared off at LP Field’s Stadium Club. The stunning array of culinary showmanship included a spring vegetable Napoleon, Thai curry beef, cod with butter-poached fiddleheads, roasted-tomato-and-fiddlehead soup, and salmon with smoked-tomato panzanella.
After the jump, Mr. Pink's random notes from the whirlwind of chaos, excitement and edible flora.
• First, about the food. Sorry if you ended up putting salt on a centerpiece out of hunger, but who knew we were going to have more than twice the turnout of the most optimistic estimates? The last count we saw was just shy of 2,200. Not what you’d call an Iron deficiency.
• Rumor behind the scenes had the secret-ingredient selection coming down to either the crunchy crozier or shiitake mushrooms. We were glad the fiddleheads won out. Though we missed getting to taste the ones Whole Foods was serving up at its booth, we snagged a few candied fiddles off one of Paquette’s plates. Imagine caramelized asparagus—then imagine wanting more of it.
• Maybe he didn’t get the Fork, but the award for showmanship had to go to Flyte Chef Bobby Benjamin. If nothing else, he made the abstract art of molecular gastronomy look like magic tricks, as onlookers applauded and cheered each cloud of liquid-nitrogen fog. No less wondrous was watching him make rhymes-with-“snippin’-snots” pellets of concentrated flavor by squeezing droplets of tomato solution into a quick-freeze bath.
• Objective for next year (besides more food): solving the logjam of tasting plates that all but overwhelmed the judges, not to mention the servers. Many thanks to those who stepped in to hasten the process, including Intentional Foods raw-food chef Laura Button.
• Glad to see Claudia survived her close encounter with exploding flan.
• Believe it or not, we didn’t get to taste a single item at the booths—not the curry chicken salad from Hotel Indigo, not the pulled pork and ceviche from Flyte, not the chimichangas from Agave, not the shrimp and grits from Rumours East, not the tuna tartare and homemade potato chip from Rumours (Not East). What should we be kicking ourselves that we missed?
UPDATE: Lesley Eats has a nice write-up here.