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Trial by Combat 2017

September 19, 2017

Yesterday, we left off with three identical bags of glorious local ingredients sourced from the Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market. And hopefully you were thinking about what delicious dishes those ingredients could make.

The participating chefs only had thirty minutes to transform them into three portions of a single dish. If that wasn’t challenging enough, they had to cook outside from their tent in The Enchanted City.

Two of the chefs had done this before. Gladys Hirsch competed for the first time last year under the La Petite Crêpe banner. This year she was representing her newest venture Mab’s Kitchen. Marla Ortega from Illium Cafe was the defending champ. Actually, you can see the run down of last year’s dishes here. DeFazio’s was the new kid on the block, and John DeFazio was attempting to assemble a dish using nothing but a wood burning stove.

Here’s how it all went down.

DeFazio’s was up first. And when asked about what ingredient he was most excited by in the bag, John said the tomatoes. They were going to be an important part of his dish. But the first thing he did was pour the cream into a pan, and threw the pan in the oven to start a cream sauce. Exciting!

Five minutes later, Mab’s Kitchen started cooking. Gladys was most excited by the mushrooms. All she had to cook on was here crepe stone, but she had brought a ratatouille with her made with local vegetables from Engelke Farm in Troy. She was working on cooking down some of the mushrooms to supplement that. Chef Gladys also lit up at the herbed brioche, and decided in combination with the eggs, she would make egg-in-the-hole-in-the-bread.

Five minutes later, Illium Cafe was scheduled to start cooking, but Marla Ortega was running a little late. Service that morning at the restaurant with the beer festival, the farmers market, and The Enchanted City was apparently madness. But she’s awesome, and last year she didn’t need all of her time, so I wasn’t worried. Marla was most excited by the bacon. Even though the ingredients were fairly similar to last year, she wanted to try something new. Her idea? Egg-in-the-hole-in-the-bread.

The tents were staggered, and Marla did not have a line of sight to Gladys. This is one of those great minds thinking alike kind of moments. But in the end, they would have different interpretations of the dish.

Man, thirty minutes goes by fast.

I actually have video of the chefs describing their dishes. Unfortunately something weird happened with John DeFazio’s video and it stopped in the middle. He did tomatoes three different ways: raw, sliced and cooked in the wood oven, and roasted whole in the coals before being crushed into the cream sauce. The base of the dish was a coal roasted pepper. But the cream sauce got a lot of the love, because it also included thyme, shisito pepper, and shallot. And the roasted tomatoes that went into the cream sauce were smoked with the fennel. John used some of the herbed brioche to help hold the sauce, and topped the dish with the sunflower shoots.

You can listen to Gladys describe what she did and why right here. Her dish is pictured below on a sunny yellow plate. It’s simple to be sure. But Mab’s Kitchen focuses on well made but simple comfort foods. It’s mostly crepes, grilled cheese, and soup. This fit nicely into her overall style. And it should be noted that even though she started second, she finished in under 25 minutes. That means her dish had to wait more than five minutes to be tasted until the judges were done with DeFazio’s. For an egg based dish, five minutes can be an eternity.

Marla Ortega took the same dish, and did something completely different with it. She called it a stuffed eggs in a basket, encrusted with caramelized bacon, with a fennel and micro green warm salad, topped with a charred pepper and tomato chili sauce. The eggs in the basket were also stuffed with a bit of Cricket Creek’s Maggie’s Round cheese.

Wow. There was a lot to love about each of these. The Yelp Elite judges were basing their scores on presentation, creative use of ingredients, and taste to come up with a grand total. And what’s remarkable is that each of these dishes came out tops in every category.

Illium Cafe took the top marks for presentation.
DeFazio’s got the highest score for creative uses of the ingredients.
Mab’s Kitchen came out on top for taste.

In the end, it was Mab’s Kitchen who took the prize by a nose. Yes, the dish may have been simpler than Illium’s creative spin on the dish, but it was executed flawlessly. The yolk was still runny, the bacon crisp, and the mushroom enhanced ratatouille was a delightful accompaniment.

Congratulations to everyone, and I can’t wait for next year. Will Mab’s Kitchen be able to hold on to the trophy? Will Illium come back with a vengeance. Will DeFazio’s, now with more experience under its belt, come back to knock this out of the park? Or will some other worthy Trojan chef step out of the shadows and steal the show?

We’re just going to have to wait and see.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 19, 2017 12:03 pm

    Thank you for this:)

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