Last night, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the first Alamo DraftHouse Iron Chef event outside of Austin. If you know me, then you know that one of the only things I love as much as food is a good movie, so when the DraftHouse combines my two favorite loves - I am there!
It's never been a question "should I make the drive to Austin". So now that they are bringing these events closer to home, I am overjoyed! Last night I sat back to enjoy an excellent film with an amazing meal - best date night ever!
A little background on my relationship with the film. I saw it when it originally came out, and yes I have read the book. I adore it on many levels, and not just because I am an obsessive Julia Childs fan (complete with first edition copies of her books) I am not a writer by any means... I blog, but not often, or in any matching pattern or style. But I do love to cook. And I have mastered many things in the kitchen including the boning of a duck, lobster, and most recently, a zombie brain aspic.
My husband had not seen the movie and I think the highlight of the night for me was hearing him whisper in my ear "OMG, that's you!" (referring to Julie on the floor of her kitchen having a fit over food gone wrong) Come on foodies, you know we've all been there :)
I do have to make a small note that I have extreme guilt over failing to adhere to the cardinal rule of the Alamo DraftHouse. I did use my phone during the film to obtain these photos. I couldn't resist, and I did make sure the screen was turned off, the flash and sound were off and I was taking under the table pics as to not disturb the guests around me. But I am feeling crazy guilty none the less because that Tim League rule of "NO TALKING, (and texting and tweeting totally count), put your phone away during a movie" is one of the reaons I love the DraftHouse so much and have sworn off all other theaters (minus IMAX, but if the DraftHouse obtained an IMAX screen they would have my total undying devotion)
The meal was a blind taste test for 3 panel judges. Red Team vs. Black team. I will admit, thanks to the power of facebook I already knew going in who was behind the red team as I had seen the prep on the Pate de Canard en Croute - but I kept an open mind. Below you will find my own scoring card which did not exactly match up with the judges decision, but I'm okay with that. I had a fantastic evening and am still full of butter this morning :) This is a good thing!
The Black team - Peter Smith & Brett Rea of the JW Mariott & the Red team - John Bullington & Andrew Leal of the Alamo DraftHouse
Tim League played the role of the Chairman, complete with a bite into a fresh yellow bell pepper to open the evening's event.
So on to the best part - the food porn!
Round One - Lobster Thermador paired with Joseph Faively, Burgundy, FR
The Black team prepared Lobster Thermador two ways, under pastry and on a stick. The "on a stick" was a lobster sausage corn dog, and not my favorite, but under that beautiful golden brown crust of pastry was nothing short of yum. The bisque was creamy and delicious and the butter claw meat was tender and melted in my mouth. This would have been my winning choice for round one if it had not been for the competition.
The Red Team prepared Spicy Lobster Thermador Canneloni with petite braised cucumber soup. Besides being completely on point with two highlights of the movie (braised cucumbers and canelloni) this dish was possibly my favorite of the evening. The lobster canelloni was packed full of delicious meat and the spicy fennel flavor made my night. I licked this plate clean with no regard for manners or politeness. It was a foodgasm like few I had had before. Kudos to the chef for making me want to have sex with this dish.
Round Two - Boeuf Bourguignon, paired with Verdillac, Bourdeaux, FR
The Black team went with a deconstructed Beef Bourguignon of slow cooked and pressed boneless shortrib and a burgundy "caviar" using a spherification (which alone gets molecular bonus points), and a carrot chip, but I was a little put off by the topping truffled ravioli that seemed to overpower the rest of the flavors.
I would have liked to have seen more rich flavors of the beef come through and possibly a less fatty meat selection. I did not finish this dish, but I did make a solid attempt.
The Red team went with a more classic approach. They went with a straight from the book Julia's Yesterday Boeuf Bourguignon Avec Pomme that could do no wrong. Sometimes you just can't mess with a classic, and they took a simple straight on approach to one of my favorite Julia dishes and knocked it out of the park. The meat was tender and savory and balanced perfectly to it's Pomme (potato) shell. Again I wanted to lick this plate clean.
Round Three - The Duck - paired with Pierre Amadieu Cotes Du Rhone, FR
(this was my favorite wine of the evening - heading out today to obtain a case!)
The Black Team went with A Roasted Mallard, with a Texas Peach tea laquer, Torchon of Confit and a parsnip apple "mousse"
This is where my opinion of the Black team started to turn around. The peach laquer (while a bit overpowering, was enjoyable in small quantity) I loved thee parsnip mousse and while I wanted to finish the plate, it was a bit too rich and overpowering for me.
The presentation was beautiful and I really appreciated the effort that went into the duck
The Red team prepared Pate De Canard En Croute - Boneless Duck Breasst Stuffed with Pate un Porc et veu and baked in pastry with grilled truffled frisee. The effort that must have gone into preparing 100 of these little wrapped packages is mind boggling to me. I loved the pistachio filling and again, I attempted and wanted so much to finish this plate but was struggling with the full belly by the third round. I am so going to attempt this dish the next time I'm feeling my Julia vibe :)
Round Four - Dessert - paired with Fleuraison Rose, FR
The Black Team knocked one out of the park with hteir Rein de Saba - Glazed Chcolate Torte with raspberry salad, and Minus "321F" Creme Fraiche. I am a huge fan of liquid nitrogen and until this evening thought Chef Jason Dady and Chef PJ were the only San Antonio holders of a liquid nitrogen tank. This dessert was a bit on the large portion side, but I still finished every bite. the bitterness of the raspberry and microgreens played well with the sweetness of the chocolate and cream. I would order this from any restaurant in a hearbeat - please tell me it's going on the JW menu somewhere!
The Red team went with a light and oh so fitting Ile Flottane (Floating Island) with a chilled caramel Almond souffle with seasonal pomegranate creme anglaise. Again Another plate I licked clean. This dish was a perfect bite of sweet and the pomegranate seeds were crunchy and fit well in the creamy base.
If I were sitting on the judges panel, I would have given the first 2 rounds to the Red team, the third round as a toss up and the fourth round to the Black team which would have resuled in a Red team win. But alas, I was not a celebrity, nor a judge, and In the end the judges selected the Black team from the JW Mariott. I think in fact we all won last night. What a fabulous way to spend an evening and I left full and blissfully happy ( I swear not just because I had not only my wine pairings but those of my husband) - I love being married to my Straight Edge BFF aka Designated Driver :)
A huge thanks to both teams for a wonderful meal and to the Alamo DraftHouse for bringing my two loves a little closer to home. I can't wait for the next foodie event!
*fingers crossed for an Iron Chef SA AlamoDraftHouse competition between John Bullington and Jason Dady. Seriously - this has to happen.. I am going to start a petition :)
Can you imagine the greatness?