A guinea hen liver cookie, sugar-seared duck, jalapeno apple bacon jam, black sticky rice and chocolate cheesecake spiked with Texas Pete are a few of the risks chefs have taken.
If the elements of surprise are anything like the Feb. 27 battle, I’ll be happy.
Like many diners I talked to who attended the contest between chef Gerry Fong of New Bern’s Persimmons and chef James Rivenbark of Wrightsville Beach’s South Beach Grill, I was wowed by the little things.
The evening’s mystery ingredients, revealed to chefs just before they begin cooking around noon the day of their face-off, were carrots, strawberries and sweet potatoes.
Rivenbark may not have won the night’s contest, but diners were nuts for the bacon caramel in his doughnuts and coffee dessert. “I wanted to lick that stuff right off the plate,” said pro judge Christi Ferretti, chef/owner of Pine Valley Market and Café Johnniein Wilmington. The crowd also gave Rivenbark high marks for strawberry whipped cream that garnished the dessert’s shot of chilled coffee.
The strawberry bourbon glaze he put on quail helped make that dish may favorite of the night. He served the quail with bing cherry compote, andouille sausage, sweet potato-carrot tasso au gratin and mint oil was my favorite dish of the night.
Fong ruled the contest, and his efforts have inspired a five-course Fire on the Dock wine dinner he’ll stage Wednesday night at Persimmons.
Fingers crossed that the evening will include Fong’s Pepsi balsamic reduction, which was the perfect counterpoint to his sweet potato ice cream. Strawberry bacon jam he served alongside braised pork butt with a sweet potato trio (fried, pureed and a fritter) was another favorite.
The wine dinner begins at 7 p.m. March 6. The price is $65 per person.
Fong is a favorite at Fire on the Dock. He was the 2012 Fire on the Dock runner-up.