Monday, August 6, 2012

Penelope the Food Judge

Yep, it's true. Friday I put on my food judge hat at the the Kitchen Window Culinary Arts Competition at the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis.

It was fun to watch some local chefs battle it out Iron chef style. The competition teamed chefs and artists to show off their creativity.  The teams were given four key ingredients and 30 minutes to design a unique and flavorful dish and a matching piece of visual art.

The three mandatory ingredients were: artisan chocolate from Minneapolis chocolatier B.T. McElrath, beer from Schell’s Brewing Co. and rice from Gourmet Rice, which they had to include—along with a unique secret ingredient—in both the dish and the visual art.  Yes, you read that right - rice, beer, and chocolate all had to be present in the dish.  The teams also had access to a pantry stocked with misc. staple items from Whole Foods.

Now add to that a secret ingredient (peaches in round 1, beets in round 2, and bananas in round 3) and it is no surprise that I didn't encounter anything totally "craveable." 

The chefs and artists did a good job given the ingredients that they had to work with but I had higher expectations for more artistic plating of the food and more flavor in the dishes; the chefs seemed afraid of salt and spice, which can made for some bland dishes.

Overall, I had a lot of fun and met some great people and certainly tasted some interesting dishes.  One of my favorites out of the six I tasted was a beet risotto (no doubt cooked in beer) with a hint of chocolate and topped with crispy fried rice puffs and perfectly cooked steak made by a chef from Oceanaire. 

To see more photos of the event, go do the Kitchen Window's Facebook page.

I would "judge" again in a heartbeat and thought the idea of pairing food and art was a cool idea for the Art Fair.  It was great to see the artists and chefs create their works of art.   I've always believed that food is a form of art and the sky is the limit on how creative you can get with it. 

I'm already looking forward to next year's competition.   You should definitely check it out as it is a great addition to the Uptown Art Fair.

Now, this competition got me thinking... 

What are you're top three favorite ingredients to cook with? (excluding the obvious "pantry" items- salt, pepper, oils, butter, chicken stock, lemon juice, garlic, etc.)

What would be your "worst nightmare" secret ingredient?  

Please "comment" and share your answers.  

For me, I think spinach, Parmesan cheese, and halibut would be three fun ingredients to work with.    My worst nightmare secret ingredient would be gelatin; I've never really worked with it before and am somehow intimidated by it.   Let me know if you have a easy way to get past this.   I really need to  just embrace it.  


I couldn't resist this photo, I was walking behind this lady a she got a free bag and stuck her dog in it.

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