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Duck. Soup. Scone.

October 5, 2015

Saturday, I was feeling a little judgy.

A long long time ago, I used to enjoy dressing up in costume. Mostly in my adolescence. And the reason that I liked to do it was because it was a chance to come up with some kind of outward expression of inner being.

So in high school, while I was struggling with my own identity and self esteem, I spent a lot of time putting together a couple of different costumes for a couple successive years. One year, I dressed up as Frankenstein’s monster. The next, I went as the Phantom of the Opera. In college I went a little darker, and got a bit more hedonistic, so I went through a vampire phase.

Eventually, I really became much more comfortable in my own skin, and the costume thing largely lost its appeal. But last Saturday, I had to dress up for The Enchanted City where I was the chief justice for the culinary competition. So really, there was only one thing I could do.

What does a steampunk judge look like? I have no idea. But I figured he would have an old-fashioned judge wig, and probably a leather jacket. I wore a tuxedo shirt (opened at the top), black slacks, and black rubber galoshes. I forgot my black leather gloves at home.

But I did come equipped with a meat tenderizer to serve as my gavel. After all, I was the culinary judge. And something like that would come in handy for keeping the rapscallions of The Enchanted City at bay.

Before we get to the food part, I wanted to give a quick shout out to the good folks at The Costumer for helping me select the perfect wig. As it turns out, they stock about a half dozen different “judge’s” wigs. They were very patient with me as I struggled with the decision. In the end, I know I made the right choice.

There were a few other people on Saturday who made the right choice.

So this Victorian culinary challenge was fascinating. All the restaurants were tasked with using common Victorian-era ingredients, and to come up with something delicious that fit into the theme of the day.

Everything was good, but a few of the dishes stood out.

The Whistling Kettle put together a duo of treats: a savory scone and a chocolate bacon quiche. But it was the scone that really impressed me and my fellow judges. It had a crisp crust and a tender crumb. The new chef, Scott Baggott, has decided to start infusing some of this tea shop’s food with tea. So there was oolong in here along with the flavors of ginger, scallions, and sweet chili sauce. A little raspberry preserves on the top gave the scone a splash of color and another layer of flavor. I’m very critical of scones, especially nontraditional ones, and this was quite good.

Laura Kerrone from Psychedelicatessen came with her game face. Actually, she came in her best steampunk outfit which incorporated a bit of the tie-dyed motif for which her bagel shop is known. On this cold blustery day, she came with a hot and spicy potato and cheese soup… with bacon. And not only was it delicious, warming, and flavorful, it was also made with local and sustainable ingredients.

So, you’ve got to know that whatever beat it had to be truly special.

Marla Ortega is a talented chef, and she went all out on the Illium Cafe’s miniature pot pies filled with pulled duck confit, potatoes, carrots and onions. The crispy shelled pastry was then topped with a goat cheese cran-mayo aioli. Those were so good that her final score from the eight judge panel of Yelp Elites came out to five stars.

Brava! Congratulations to Marla and the Illium Cafe for taking the trophy. It’s hers to proudly display for the course of the year. And next year she’ll have to defend the title, or else Illium Cafe will have to pass the award on to the next winner. The Placid Baker might join in, and maybe the team at Peck’s Arcade will even be inspired to compete.

While they may not have won this year, it was great to meet the owners of Infinity Cafe on River Street. Their bread pudding is totally delicious. And we learned from Bacchus that they are now making steak in the pizza oven by putting the meat directly on the coals. It sounds amazing. Slidin’ Dirty put up a good fight, and a lot of festival goers popped in for a beer, but it wasn’t their day for victory.

Even when you’re judgy on the inside (and the out), it’s never an easy task. Balancing the pros and cons of each dish, and weighing those against the competitors is harder than it may sound. Actually, I have another judging event coming up this week that I’m very excited about. But let’s save that for tomorrow.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric T permalink
    October 5, 2015 10:41 am

    Seriously, those duck confit pot pies were amazing. I’m seriously regretting I didn’t buy a few extra to take home with me! Was it my imagination that the crust inside the tin (as opposed to on top of the whole pie) was cornbread? While goggles and corsets only go so far with me, I’m glad The Enchanted City inspired me to get down to Troy and expose myself to some of the eateries I’ve only read about there.

  2. Randy K permalink
    October 5, 2015 11:08 am

    Yum! You always get the best gigs :) Sounds like a delicious and enchanted event! See you later this week at the Harvest celebration fundraiser!

  3. RogerK permalink
    October 5, 2015 1:04 pm

    So where’s your honor’s picture?

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