I had the pleasure of attending a Got To Be NC Competition Dining Fire In The City battle as a special guest a couple of weeks ago. For those who have yet to experience Competition Dining, it is a 2-month long dining series competition, structured tournament-style, with chefs from local area restaurants battling for the title of the Regional Championship. The competition travels to Wilmington, Asheville, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Charlotte each year. When Competition Dining first came to Charlotte for the first time last year, I worked each battle as the Social Media Manager so I was excited to return for a taste of the second Fire In The City competition.
Each battle two chefs and their teams construct a menu of 6 courses using at least one (or two) secret ingredients. The chefs and their teams work all day in the kitchen of Bonterra to crank out over 100 dishes for each course to serve dining guests. Each night, the guests and pro judges blindly vote on the dishes created by the chefs and their teams using a voting app. The votes are tallied at the end of the evening and a winner is selected to move on to the next round of the competition. The event is truly unique and each series usually sells out within the first few weeks.
On the night that I attended, Passion8 Bistro and Mama Ricotta’s were competing for the chance to move onto the semi-finals round. The two secret ingredients of the evening were Joyce Farms Pheasant Breast and Cackalacky Cheerwine Sweet Sauce. Guests were even given a sample of the Cackalacky Cheerwine sauce to take home. I must confess that I had never heard of the sauce before and also do not care for Cheerwine but I absolutely loved this sauce. It’s sweet and tangy and would go perfectly on ribs, burgers or wings.
Guests were also given a sample chicken rub from the Savory Spice Shop in Southend.
The courses of the battle between Passion8 Bistro and Mama Ricotta’s were as follows:
Course 1: BBQ NC Flounder with Cackalacky Cheerwine Crème Fraiche, Sweet Potato Veloute, Pickled Onions, Joyce Farms Pheasant Salad with Cracklins
Course 2: Cackalacky Cheerwine Glazed Hearth Roasted Joyce Farms Pheasant, Cackalacky Cheerwine Boiled Peanuts, Braised Cabbage and Apple, Cackalacky Cheerwine Gastrique, Chervil, Roasted Butternut Squash and Beets, Soft Poached Egg
Course 3: Joyce Farms Pheasant Breast Roulade, Cornbread Chorizo Stuffing, Cackalacky Cheerwine Glazed Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Belly, Fall Squash Hash, Tomato Chow-Chow
Course 4: Cackalacky Cheerwine Pheasant Chorizo Ballotine, Potato Gnocchi, Cackalacky Cheerwine Sweet Potato Crema, Dressed Arugula, Pickled Onion and Pear, Cackalacky Cheerwine Fluid Gel
Course 5: Chocolate Ganache Duo – White Chocolate Sweet Potato Ganache, Bing Cherry Ice Cream, Shortbread Cookie, Cheerwine Pearls, Cackalacky Cheerwine Ganache Molten Cake
Course 6: Cackalacky Cheerwine Sweet Potato Panna Cotta, Vanilla Pecan Chiffon, Joyce Farms Pheasant Chicharone Powder, Cackalacky Cheerwine Spiced Chocolate, Citrus White Chocolate Cremieux
All courses were delicious but my favorites of the evening were Course 1, 2, and 5. Part of the fun of this event is not knowing which chef created each dish but secretly trying to guess by comparing the dish to the chef’s typical style of cuisine. You can see the full scoring and which chef created which dish HERE. The winner of the Battle Passion8 Bistro vs. Mama Ricotta’s was Chef Tom Dyrness of Mama Ricotta’s. Congrats, Chef!
Chef Dyrness of Mama Ricotta’s will be competing tomorrow night against the winner of tonight’s battle for the Fire In The City Championship and a chance to move on to compete in the Final Fire in November. Even though tickets are already sold out for tonight and tomorrow’s final Fire In The City event, I highly suggest putting Competition Dining on your calendar for next year when they return to Charlotte as it’s a great experience for a date night, anniversary celebration or a fun night out with friends!