The treats keep coming at the WNC Chefs Challenge competitions. This week, when event emcee and all-around character, Bob Bowles, announced the secret ingredient, a cheer rose from the crowd. What could be more fun than battle bacon?
This tete-a-tete between the Sunset Terrace from the Grove Park Inn and the Admiral in West Asheville was highly anticipated to begin with; the two teams, having cruised with flying colors into the semifinals, were both considered to be formidable contenders.
Most of the six courses were spectacular — both soup dishes were fantastic (courses are listed below). Some were not; in particular, a dessert that featured mushy risotto and floppy bacon dipped in chocolate was a bit of a disaster.
The highest-scoring dish of the competition, a very simple chicken roulade wrapped in bacon and served over mashed potatoes, brought my favorite phrase of the night into circulation: “meat glue.” There was just something about watching team Admiral — T-shirted and drinking Budweiser at the bar while awaiting the results — talk about meat glue next to the toque and white jacket-wearing team from the Sunset Terrace.
It was perhaps that highly simple dish that pushed team Admiral into the lead; the results of the audience-judged competition were close once again — the Admiral won by only 4.1 percent after all of the points were tallied.
I’d prefer to think that the dish that helped the Admiral win was their unique bacon and chocolate dessert, which utilized maltodextrin to turn bacon fat into a fluffy powder. That bacon fat cloud was then scattered over a rich chocolate bar, along with Fleur de sel and bacon pieces, then set in a pool of bacon creme anglaise.
Here are the courses in the order in which they were served:
1. Sweet onion soup, charred corn, Benton’s bacon, scallion (Sunset Terrace).
2. Pancetta with spinach salad, watermelon-guava gastrique, watermelon pear “napoleon” (Sunset Terrace).
3. Bacon dashi, poached shrimp, pork, 64 degree egg, radish, chive, pickled shiitake (Admiral).
4. Chicken-bacon roulade, potato puree, Brussels, asparagus, bacon demi (Admiral).
5. Milk chocolate-dipped bacon, white chocolate risotto, Southern Comfort peach butter (Sunset Terrace).
6. Bacon chocolate candy bar, bacon creme anglaise, Fleur de sel, piment d’espelette, bacon powder.
Watch the video below to get a taste of battle bacon:
Video by Jake Frankel.