Attending this year's semi-finals was a fun opportunity to taste all sorts of delicious food and learn a few useful tips along the way.
Pacing is Key
Several of my food writer and blogger friends have judged culinary competitions in the past and mentioned that pacing is key. With this in mind, I reviewed the semi-finals menu and determined that I should have no problem finishing all 10 of the samples listed. It wasn't until the 7th dish that I realized the menu was double-sided with 10 additional entries! Oops! Next time, I'll limit myself to 2-3 bites of each... even if it tastes delicious.
Marinades and Brines
We don't often think of coffee for marinades but boy is it good! After tasting these two dishes, I'll definitely be using it more to brine and marinade my meats.
Carolina Street Sub- Coffee-Marinated beef scallopini sandwich with green tea/avocado crema
S&D Delicious BBQ Sandwich - Smoked and brined pork belly with Carolina cheery BBQ sauce and cole slaw dressing
If you've spent time in the South, you may be familiar with red-eye gravy, which is prepared with pork drippings and black coffee. It is most often served with country ham, and as I discovered, also works well with fish like this rainbow trout. Coffee was also a nice touch in the jus and glaze accompanying the duck breast and blinis.
Grandfather Mountain - NC flavors of stone-ground grits, rainbow trout, roasted vegetables, and red-eye gravy
Duck n' Pancakes - A refined twist on chicken and waffles - duck breast and buckwheat blinis with a coffee glaze and jus
Coffee and Shrimp
If you think coffee and shrimp don't make a good pair, think again! These coffee rubbed shrimp were excellent and the Low Country Jamm'in dish received rave reviews.
Southern Shrimp n' Grits - Shrimp and grits with an added kick of chorizo-coffee gravy
Low Country Jamm' in - A refined take on the Southern staple shrimp and grits
Baking with Coffee
We all know coffee and chocolate were created to go together, so it's no surprise that everyone loved the chocolate coffee cake. A more unusual yet successful combination was the coffee and cinnamon biscuit with sweet potato ice cream.
I'll take my coffee black... In a chocolate raspberry torte cake - Chocolate coffee cake with a raspberry reduction and silky chocolate-rum ganache
Not Your Mama's Biscuit - A coffee and cinnamon biscuit with sweet potato ice cream
It was great fun to have the opportunity to taste the students' creations and learn about the many ways one can incorporate coffee into cooking. Congratulations to the ten J&W culinary students who earned a spot in next month's finals!