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For this installment of the Date Night series, my husband and I headed to the third floor of Whole Foods for a live cooking competition put on by the Salud Cooking School. It was a Monday night date which is a little out of the box for us (we are the in-bed-before-10pm-on-weeknights type of folks), but we had a great time and were only slightly sleepy at work the next day.
Salud is a cool little cooking school that is sponsored by Whole Foods, and it offers hands-on and demonstration classes at various levels. I’m not really much of a cook (you may have noticed), but since I am an excellent eater, we signed up for the live cooking competition called Sliced. The general idea is like the Food Network show, Chopped: two chefs compete by making an appetizer, entree, and dessert from surprise ingredients. Each dish has to be completed before time is up, and the chefs are rated on taste, creativity, and presentation.
Our competition was between two local chefs, Chris Coleman of Stoke and Josh Spratt of Southminster Retirement Community. Chef Chris specializes in farm-to-fork with a modern flare, and Chef Josh’s culinary strengths include grilling and sauteing. Both brought along their respective sous chef’s, Chad Lewis and Jarron Webber.
The theme for the evening was Arbor Day and all of the secret ingredients either came from trees or looked like trees (broccoli anyone?) Each chef is given free range of the kitchen pantry items and is allowed to request up to 5 add-on items to have on hand for the competition. We were given instructions to cheer whenever one of the “favorited” ingredients went into a dish. I was fully behind cheering for butter, heavy cream, bacon, and booze!
The evening started with a little appetizer set up of cheese, crackers, olives and other similar goodies, and Salud kept the wine and beer flowing freely, so my advice is to pace yourself. Alas, I did not follow that advice, and I suffered from a bit of a headache on Tuesday morning.
Round One: Appetizer (25 min)
The mystery ingredients for the appetizer dish were shitake mushrooms, dates and maple BBQ sauce. The chefs were given a few minutes to brainstorm and plan before the round, and then the timer was set for just 25 minutes. I was starving at this point and definitely consuming the wine a little too quickly on an empty stomach 😉 Finally, the timer went off, and we got to dig into our first course!
Chef Chris made a phenomenal salad using the mystery ingredients plus arugula, charred corn and bacon (woohoo!). I could eat this salad every day for a week. Seriously, it was sooooo yummy. I gave it 5’s all across the board.
Chef Josh made a stuffed mushroom with a very tasty figgy BBQ sauce drizzle. I hate mushrooms, BUT I did give this the ol’ girl scout try and ate half of it. My husband very happily took over and finished the other half. I gave this a 4 for taste because even though I don’t like mushrooms, the sauce was pretty delicious and everyone else seemed to enjoy eating them. I gave it another 4 for creativity and a 5 for presentation.
Round Two: Entree (40 min)
Broccoli, Olives and Fair Game Apple Tipper Wine were revealed for the entree portion, and 40 minutes was put on the clock. This part of the night was the most entertaining to watch as the chefs were really whizzing around the kitchen. Sous Chef Jarron was a slicing and chopping ninja! My fingers were cringing watching that knife fly. I did learn a couple things though! Did you guys know you could make ricotta by adding vinegar to boiling milk???
**Fun fact: I was seated next to Heidi, the guest judge of the evening, and I was able to chat with her a bit while the chefs were preparing. I found out that she was also a Charlotte blogger and a writer for a local magazine. It was really cool to meet another blogger, and I had a great time discussing local eateries with her. I can’t wait to try out some of her suggestions!**
Finally, the wait was over and we were given our entrees…and more wine.
Chris went with an Italian-style entree of spicy pork meatballs on polenta with charred broccoli ragu. The dish was sprinkled with the homemade thyme-infused ricotta and “pan-cheese” which was basically burnt parmesan. (I could eat crispy burnt parmesan like a bag of potato chips. Seriously, do they sell that anywhere?). It was a splendid dish. I would have eaten every bite, but Rob was eyeing half of my meatball like a little puppy. I was a good wife and shared it with him. I gave the dish all 5’s.
Josh’s entree was a semi-spicy chicken stir fry made with thin rice noodles. I love Asian food, and this dish was also a win for me. The sauce he made was a combination of hoisin, chili sauce, sriracha and rice wine vinegar. It was #yumyumyum. He did this thing where he sliced the stems of the broccoli almost paper thin and added it to the stir-fry, and it was awesome! I usually just toss out the stems if I happen to be cooking, but they added such a satisfying crunch to the meal that I am going to rethink my stem-tossing from now on. I also scored Josh with all 5’s. I am pretty sure I was an easy judge. 😀
Round Three: Dessert (30 min)
I hate to say that this was my favorite round because everything was so fun to eat, but, I mean, it was the dessert round. Can you blame me? Anyway, the chef’s were given 30 minutes to turn avocados, coconut milk and maple praline syrup into a decadent dessert dish, and they did not disappoint. I can’t lie, I was a little nervous when I saw the avocados. I’m not really a picky eater (I don’t think), but I kinda lump avocados in the same category as mushrooms. I really had no reason to fear though, as both chefs were able to put out a fabulous final course.
Chris did a mix of tropical Hawaiian flavors by creaming the avocado with the coconut milk to make a sort of mousse which he topped with fresh pineapple relish. He also added gingered macadamia nuts and a drizzle of caramelized white chocolate. The mouse by itself kinda tasted like baby food, but the flavor combination of all the ingredients was stellar. I gave him all 5’s again for a perfect score.
Josh also made a mouse using chocolate and the avocados which he topped with a coconut milk froth. He also used the syrup and some pecans to make a brittle topper then served the dish in a little espresso cup. It was as adorable as it was delicious. I really wanted to lick the coconut froth beaters, but I restrained from grabbing them out of his hands. Josh received all 5’s as well.
And the winner is…
Apparently, everyone else agreed with my scores because Chef Chris was crowned the victor for the evening! I believe they said it was his 3rd time winning the competition, but I am sure they will both be back to play again!
I had such a great time at this event, and even though Rob was a bit skeptical at first, he also really enjoyed the evening. I 100% recommend this for a date night or even just a girl’s night out!
So, what do you think? Would you enjoy this activity for your next date night?