Friday, 13 July 2012

QC Taste of Elegance 2012

On June 9th, my friend Becca & I attended the 10th annual QC Taste of Elegance.  It was our 2nd year attending.  (See the beginning here and then just "Newer Post" back for all our reviews from last year.)

This year, there were 9 entries from area chefs, some from Cedar Rapids & Sheffield.  

I picked Becca up around 4:30 & we headed down the hill to the venue.  There were more reserved tables this year, so finding a seat was our first concern.  We spotted a table w/ two ladies saving seats for their husbands, and decided to join them.  We were soon joined by another couple, and the husband happened to be retired from my place of business!  That was a neat "small world" kinda thing!  : )  

As last year, we started out w/ dessert.  There were petit fours and a multitude of different little cupcakes this year.  We tested a strawberry cupcake, what appeared to be a red velvet cupcake but wasn't, chocolate cake, and our favorite - a carrot cake souffle w/ cream cheese frosting in the middle.  DELICIOUS!  

We didn't go in order of number, but I will here.  : ) 

Dish #1 was brought to us by Chef Martha Smith from Blue Cat Brew Pub.  She offered roast pork loin in grilled tomato sauce with flan pork belly.  

The pork was a bit dry for my taste, but the sauce was quite good, with a lot of flavor packed in!  

Dish #2, from Jerimy Henson of a new venue - Four/Play Pub - was one of both our favorites.  Chicory Sou Vide pork shoulder with jalapeno carrot and current cole slaw.  This won 3rd place, and definitely deserved a spot in the top 3!  I really enjoyed the sweet and tangy flavor, and Becca's favorite part was the cole slaw.  YUM!  (One of our table-mates asked about the secret ingredient, the flavor we all liked but couldn't pinpoint, and was told it was likely the coffee & chicory.  Splendid!)

Dish #3 - Cheff Matt Kaperka of The Iowa Machine Shed created a pulled  pork ravioli with wild mushroom cream sauce.  The presentation could have been better, but he was our last table, and it was getting late in the serving, so I can understand.  Neither Becca nor I were fans of the pasta.  We didn't really get a sense of the pork filling.  However, the sauce was excellent!  Creamy & quite full of flavor!  I'd like to replicate it... 

Dish #4 - Chef Tony Fulin of Offshore Grill was the nephew of one of our table-mates.  He served a Jack Daniels Iowa Chop, and I think he did a good job for his first time at the Taste.  The presentation was nice, and he had the FRIENDLIEST crew of the evening!  We did not like his choice of cut for the pork, and were unable to eat most of the meat.  :(  His sauce deserved an A++, however, and I do hope he gets invited back next year so we can see what else he has up his sleeve!  

Chef Jason Gomez of the Isle of Capri's kitchens gave us dish #5, Salted Caramel Smokey Pork tenderloin with roasted Poblano and corn grits.  The salted caramel won Becca's heart, and I - a person who has never enjoyed grits - wanted seconds of the grits!  I want him to make that for me again.  : )  The tenderloin was definitely smokey & sweet, and I could eat it again.  

Dish #6 won 2nd place.  Chef Mon Sayasit created his version of the Modern Pork Bowl.  

I have to say, our table was not impressed with this dish at all.  It was the ONE dish of the evening that we didn't take more than one bite of.  Well, actually, I gave it a little more than one bite, but it still felt like a waste.  Our version did NOT look anything like the judge's plate.  It was like a noodle soup in a little plastic cup, with too much broth and much too salty or something.  Just was not our cup of soup!!

Dish #7 from Chef Eran Salzmann of Z-Best Cafe graced us with a smokey pork shoulder and belly duet with maple lacquer.  It smelled divine and was very visually appealing!!  The flavors didn't quite live up to the scent, but it was still VERY good and I definitely cleaned my plate!  : )  

Was disappointed our version didn't have the fried egg, tho.  
That looked good!

The surprise of the evening came in Dish #8.  We were not expecting anything much from Chef Kendra Husband of the Sunnybrook Assisted Living venue.  Roasted ground pork loaf with sweet potato and goat cheese hash made us believers, tho!  

It was FABULOUS!  In my personal picks, this should have won 2nd place.  : )  The corn was a bit too spicy for me, but the potatoes w/ goat cheese - inspired pairing, really.  

The well-deserved winner of the evening, tho, was my dear friend Nicki's husband, Chef Doug Lear of Bass Street Chop House.  Dish #9 went above & beyond.  Now, I was prepared to vote for Doug as People's Choice based on loyalty and friendship.  However, his Root Beer Braised pork cheek with chili crusted herb, sweet potato croquette were good enough to earn the vote on their own.  

What put him over the edge, what made him win not only People's Choice this year but also the GRAND PRIZE (SO EXCITED!) of Chef Par Excellence (1st place, ya know), was the bacon gellatto.  He created it using liquid nitrogen, folks!  LIQUID NITROGEN to freeze the gellato!  Agh, he's a genius.  It tasted like my favorite ice cream, butter pecan, but WITH BACON!  :D  *swoon*  I called it "A love affair for my mouth."  And I stand by that description.  Mmm!  

It was, once again, an EXCELLENT evening of elegance and flavor, and both Becca & I are once again excited for next year's offerings!  

CONGRATULATIONS to Doug once again!  You did great & I can't wait to hear all about the National Pork Summit he & Nicki get to attend next Spring.  Woot!!!  

What are you waiting for?  Let me know you'll join us for next year's event!  ; )  


Carrie "fan of delicious flavor" Marie 

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