We couldn’t have imagined a better way to start out 2013 than by going to the Fire on the Rock Competition Dining event in Asheville, NC. Haven’t heard of it yet? No worries… here’s the info.
“The “Got To Be NC” Competition Dining Series is unlike any other dinner experience in the country! Taste course-by-course during a series of 15 dinner competitions hosted in five regions of the state throughout the year. Each evening, two restaurants “battle” it out side by side in a single elimination, “Iron Chef”-style format. As our guest, you get to savor a six-course menu (three courses from each chef without knowing whose food you’re tasting) created around a “secret” North Carolina ingredient. The featured ingredient is revealed to the chefs at noon the day of their battle and it must be used in each of their three courses.”
“The goal of the series is to celebrate local North Carolina products and agriculture and to showcase the culinary ingenuity and talent across the state.”
So far this week, there’s been “Battle Cheese” featuring Ashe County Cheddar & Bailey Mountain Tomme by the Spinning Spider Creamery, “Battle Pork Butt” from Heritage Farms and the secret ingredient for our dinner battle was “Triggerfish,” from Homer Smith fishing dock in Beaufort, NC.
If you’re anything like us then you probably never heard of Triggerfish. Thankfully throughout the night and during the opening presentations they had plenty of info slides and from them we learned the Triggerfish was a mild white fish that taste similar to lobster when prepared properly.
I (Curtis) am notoriously not a fan of seafood… I coined the term “If its from the sea its not for me”, but I was keeping an open mind for the night and looking forward to the battle.
The two chefs doing battle for the night were Chef Jason Brian from Jack of the Wood vs Chef Matthew Minor of the recently closed The Asheville Public. We had been to Asheville, NC a couple times before but hadn’t been to either restaurant yet
CHEF JASON BRIAN from Jack of the Wood
CHEF MATTHEW MINOR from The Asheville Public
The battle started with a Triggerfish Medallion with a Coconut-Chili Broth, Lobster Dumpling and a Green- Papaya Salad. Unfortunately for us the lights were dimmed (we HATE low lighting) and our first photo wasn’t what we were looking for, the first dish however was awesome.
The fish was cooked perfectly which made it slightly flaky and moist. The broth was light and refreshing but lacked the chili flavor it promised and the dumpling was pretty boring, but the papaya salad made up for both of those things.
It was sweet and tangy with just enough crunch to make the dish fun and tasty.
We started using our phones for extra lighting throughout the night and the results were a little better.
The second course had the Triggerfish turned into a Meatball and served with a Smoked-Tomato and Crab Piedmontese Sauce, Basil, and Goat Cheese Polenta Cakes.
We really enjoyed the creativity in this dish by turning the fish into an Italian meatball dish. The meatball was flavorful but a little tough and though it paired nicely with the polenta I was a little disappointed by the lack of flavor, lack of goat cheese and the lack of crab.
The third course turned the Triggerfish into a sushi roll with Ginger-Shiitake Duxell and a Five-Spice Syrup. I’m a big fan of sushi (Ella), especially when its fried so I was excited to dig into this dish. Unfortunately the sushi wasn’t all I hoped for but the accompaniments made the dish a little more memorable.
The shiitake duxelle was delicious which is high praise from someone who doesn’t like mushrooms and the sweetness from the five spice syrup mixed with the crunchy sweet potato hay made for an all around good dish.
For the fourth course we were presented with a Seared Triggerfish with a Sweet Potato-Apple Puree, Potato Crisp, Pickled Carrot and Apple Skin, with a Green-Apple Reduction. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The fish had a meaty texture and a nice sear which went great with the sides it was served with.
The sweet potato puree was really flavorful and paired perfectly with the super tart apple reduction. The potato crisp was really crunchy and added a great texture to the dish. I wish this was served at a restaurant so I could go and order it again.
The fifth course ended up being the real game changer of the night. It was the highest scoring dish of the night and definitely worth driving from Charlotte to Asheville to experience. The dish was called “Bacon and Eggs” and featured the Triggerfish as BACON!!!!! Served with a Soft Truffled Egg over toast with a side of Coffee Panna Cotta.
The idea of turning fish into bacon totally blew my mind. It was by far the tastiest thing of the night. The eggs were nice and soft and had the lightest touch of truffle. The toast had a touch of sweetness which paired with the coffee panna cotta made it feel a little like dessert.
The sixth dish was the only dish that made me (Curtis) cringe a little before even trying it. The dish was Candied Fish Skin (ugh….) with a Roasted Red Pepper Sorbet over a Lemon Doughnut and Balsamic Reduction.
The doughnut wasn’t overly sweet which was nice and the lemon paired nicely with the red pepper sorbet. I even liked the balsamic reduction but we just couldn’t get passed the candied fish skin. It smelled and tasted like fish and the crunchy skin made it feel like eating scales.
After the sixth course was through we all entered our votes and the results were in. Thanks to the Triggerfish bacon Chef Matthew Minor took the win for “Battle Triggerfish”.
This was one of the coolest foodie events we have ever had the pleasure of attending. Thankfully for us the fun will be coming to Charlotte, NC late September and early October. If you have the opportunity to check out this event we HIGHLY RECOMMEND you go and experience the fun for yourself.
To purchase tickets to next weeks semi-finals in Asheville, NC click here.