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“Iron Chef” Seattle (Taste the Nation Event)

01-Apr-2005

Wow!  What a fun night we had last night!

My friend E is working hard for Seattle Taste the Nation this year.  He had a personal goal of getting six tables signed up and I think he is actually at eight!  He’s doing great work.  Because of this extraordinary involvement he was able to secure a special event as incentive/reward for the table captains. 

Last night we met at his house for an "Iron Chef" competition.  Okay, it was more like Paper Chef competition, since we all knew our list of ingredients prior to the evening, had time to create/look-up recipes and practice them, if we wanted to.  And we were each assigned one course so that at the end we’d have a full meal.  Considering we were all working in one (albeit large) kitchen, this was a very good thing. 

The list of ingredients was provided by Chef Thierry Rautureau of Rover’s, who was also one of our judges.  The other judge was Susie Cantor who volunteers for the local SOS (Taste the Nation is their event) organization. 

Two teams were assigned to each course.  Here is the list of ingredients Chef assigned to us:

Appetizer
Dungeness Crab
Celery Root
Dijon Mustard
Frisee  

Soup 
Penn Cove Mussels
Tomatoes
Saffron
Garlic
Country Bread  

Entrée
Duck
Orange  

Sides
Parsnip
Asparagus  

Dessert
Eggs
Sugar
Flour
Vanilla
Dark Chocolate
Frangelico Liqueur  

When you read the list of ingredients some standard things come to mind but they probably weren’t on the menu last night!  People really got into this event, did a ton of research and came up with really interesting courses.  Unfortunately, since I was busy helping coordinate people with pots & pans, taking pictures and grabbing bites every now and then I can’t talk too much about the details of each dish. 

But I can tell you that 24 people descended upon E’s house, got serious about their assignment, worked on their presentations and waited for their turn to serve the group.  (At at the end of the evening the kitchen was a disaster, but many people chipped in to help get at least some semblance of order before leaving.)

When each dish was presented to Chef he did a little critique of both the good and "could-be-improved" points and really treated each offering with respect.  It was very nice and I learned a lot just listening to his critiques.  I was really impressed with the amount of time and energy he devoted to this event.  (And this was after he had already attended to all details at Rover’s.  If you’ve ever been there you know that the "Chef-in-the-hat" greets all diners.)

All of the duck dishes were wonderful, especially a very creative duck sausage served with an orange and kumquat relish!  One of the desserts was a contrasting light as a feather chocolate mousse, served with a dense-as-a-brick (which is a compliment in this case) chocolate cookie.  The mussel soups were great, the crab dishes sublime.  I felt especially honored when the judges remarked favorably on my Gougeres, which I’d just made to help keep the hunger at bay (and the wine from hitting totally empty stomachs) prior to dinner being served.  They weren’t even part of the competition! :-) 

Near the end of the evening both the hosts and Chef Thierry offered special incentives to the group – anyone booking two tables gets an evening cruise on E’s lovely boat and anyone booking three tables gets the cruise AND dinner for two at Rover’s.  I may just start having to recruit a few more people!

Remember to get your Taste the Nation tickets soon – no matter what city you live in!  If you happen to be at the Seattle event, please drop by the Culinary Fool table and say hello!

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